Heart Palpitations in Pregnancy

Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, Complications, and Tips

Pregnant woman talking to her doctor

Hero Images / Getty Images

It's very common for pregnant people to notice new sensations in their chests, such as a racing, uncomfortable, or strange heartbeat. This is often due to heart palpitations, which happen due to the increased blood volume during pregnancy. The body has to work extra hard to pump all this blood.

This experience can be concerning—or even scary, and may many pregnant people wonder when to worry about heart palpitation in pregnancy. Luckily, most often heart palpitations are nothing to worry about.

Your body goes through many changes during pregnancy. Pregnancy hormones and a growing uterus cause a variety of well-known pregnancy symptoms such as morning sickness, fatigue, and frequent urination. Pregnancy also affects other areas of your body like your circulatory system (your heart and blood supply). Some pregnant people don't notice the changes, but others experience new symptoms, including the emergence of heart palpitations. Learn more about heart palpitation in pregnancy.

Heart Palpitations While Pregnant

Studies show that heart palpitations are common in pregnancy. Some pregnant people will experience heart palpitations for the first time during pregnancy. Others get them before they become pregnant, and continue to feel them throughout pregnancy.

Heart palpitations during pregnancy are usually harmless, but they can sometimes be a sign of a problem. Always contact your doctor if you have any new symptoms or experience anything that concerns you. Here’s what you need to know about the symptoms, causes, treatment, and complications of heart palpitations during pregnancy.

What Do Palpitations Feel Like?

Heart palpitations are a sensation or feeling that your heart is not beating normally. You may become hyperaware of your heartbeat and feel like your heart is: 

  • Fluttering 
  • Having extra beats
  • Not beating in a regular rhythm  
  • Pounding or flopping 
  • Racing or beating very quickly
  • Skipping beats

You can feel heart palpitations in your chest, but you can also experience them in your neck and throat.

Causes of Heart Palpitations

Your heart works harder during pregnancy, making palpitations more likely, particularly because: 

  • Blood volume: Your heart has to pump 40% to 50% more blood.
  • Increased rate: Your heart beats up to 25% faster.
  • Weight gain: You are carrying extra weight.

However, heart palpitations can have other causes such as: 

  • Anemia (not enough red blood cells)
  • Certain medications, including cold medicines and herbal remedies
  • Dehydration
  • Excessive exercise
  • Extreme stress or anxiety
  • Heart condition
  • Low blood sugar
  • Overactive thyroid
  • Too much caffeine

Heart Palpitations Diagnosis

Be sure to tell your doctor about any circulatory symptoms you are experiencing at your prenatal check-ups. Your doctor can determine if what you’re experiencing is normal or if it needs to be checked out further. 

They'll usually begin by reviewing your medical history and talking to you about any heart conditions in your family in addition to a physical exam that includes taking your pulse and listening to your heart. 

Since palpitations come and go, your doctor may not get to examine you while you have them. You can help the doctor by keeping track of your palpitations prior to your consultation: 

  • Do you have other symptoms such as sweating or dizziness?
  • How do they feel?
  • How long do they last? 
  • What are you doing when they start?
  • What helps them go away?
  • When do they start?

Depending on the outcome of the exam, your doctor may also order: 

  • Blood tests to look for anemia or other causes 
  • A chest x-ray to look at the lungs and heart for possible causes
  • An echocardiogram or ultrasound to check the parts of the heart and how they are working
  • An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) to check the electrical activity of your heart and identify an irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia
  • A heart monitor that is attached to you for a day, a week, or more to catch palpitations or irregular heartbeats

Treatment for Heart Palpitations

The treatment for heart palpitations depends on its cause and symptoms. When palpitations are related to pregnancy, they do not necessarily require treatment. Your doctor may just monitor your symptoms and ask you to keep track of your palpitations.

If your doctor feels you do need treatment, they will treat you in the safest way possible while you are pregnant. They may:

  • Prescribe medicine for palpitations and heart rhythm disorders
  • Refer you to a thyroid doctor (endocrinologist), heart doctor (cardiologist), and high-risk pregnancy doctor (perinatologist)
  • Safely treat any underlying medical condition such as anemia or an overactive thyroid

More severe cases are rare, but other treatments, such as cardioversion, are also safe during pregnancy.

Dealing With Heart Palpitations

Heart palpitations can come on suddenly when you’re active or resting, which can be frightening and cause anxiety. However, when you know what causes them and how to cope, you’ll be better prepared to deal with them.

Coping Strategies

Here’s what you can do when you feel your heart racing or pounding in your chest or throat:

  • Get up and move around if you were resting.
  • Grab a snack.
  • Have a glass of water.
  • Sit down and rest if you were active.
  • Stop what you’re doing.
  • Try pregnancy yoga or prenatal stretching to relieve stress.
  • Try some relaxation techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing.

Prevention Tips

These strategies may help prevent palpitations:

Complications During Pregnancy

Most of the time, heart palpitations do not lead to any complications during pregnancy.

A healthy heart can deal with the extra blood and faster heartbeat that comes along with pregnancy, but if you had a heart condition before becoming pregnant, pregnancy can make it worse. 

Complications of heart disease affect 1% to 5% of pregnancies. If you have a heart issue, your pregnancy will likely be classified high-risk and your provider will work in conjunction with your cardiologist to monitor your heart health throughout your pregnancy.

If you have a severe heart condition, the extra strain pregnancy puts on the heart can lead to:

  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs)
  • Stroke

Death is a possible complication of heart issues in pregnancy, although this is rare.

When to Call the Doctor

While most of the time palpitations aren’t a cause for worry, in a small percentage of women, they could be a sign of something more serious. Call your doctor or go to the emergency if: 

  • The palpitations are lasting longer or getting worse.
  • You also feel dizzy, lightheaded, or feeling faint.
  • You are short of breath or have trouble breathing.
  • You have chest pain.
  • You have palpitations often.
  • You just don’t feel right.

A Word From Verywell

Most people don’t think about their heart beating as they go about their day. So, if you feel your chest pounding, your heart skipping beats or your neck fluttering, it can definitely stop you in your tracks. Heart palpitations can be scary, but the good news is that they're pretty common during pregnancy and usually not harmful to you or your baby. 

Of course, while it’s rare, palpitations can be a warning sign of a more serious issue. So, always talk to your doctor about your pregnancy symptoms and call if you’re ever worried. Learning about what’s normal and what’s not can also help you feel more confident as you deal with palpitations during pregnancy.  

5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. McAnulty JH. Arrhythmias in pregnancy. Cardiology Clinics. 2012;30(3):425-34. doi:10.1016/j.ccl.2012.04.002

  2. Adamson DL, Nelson-Piercy C. Managing palpitations and arrhythmias during pregnancy. Postgraduate Medical Journal. 2008;84(988):66-72. doi:10.1136/hrt.2006.098822

  3. Joglar JA, Page RL. Management of arrhythmia syndromes during pregnancy. Current Opinion in Cardiology. 2014;29(1):36-44. doi:10.1097/HCO.0000000000000020

  4. Tromp CH, Nanne AC, Pernet PJ, Tukkie R, Bolte AC. Electrical cardioversion during pregnancy: safe or not?. Netherlands Heart Journal. 2011;19(3):134-6. doi:10.1007/s12471-011-0077-5

  5. Sharma V, Rajeshwari S, Kothari SS, Roy KK, Sharma JB, Singh N. Heart disease in pregnancy: Cardiac and obstetric outcomes. Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics. 2013;288(1):23-7. doi:10.1007/s00404-013-2730-2

Additional Reading

By Donna Murray, RN, BSN
Donna Murray, RN, BSN has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Rutgers University and is a current member of Sigma Theta Tau, the Honor Society of Nursing.