Pregnancy and Heart Health: What Every Mother-to-be Should Know

Feb 02, 2024
Pregnancy and Heart Health: What Every Mother-to-be Should Know
From morning sickness to swollen feet, your body undergoes radical changes during pregnancy. The most significant player of all, though, is your heart. February is American Heart Health Month, so take a few minutes to learn how pregnancy impacts this vita

You may not give it much thought, but your heart beats 100,000 times a day and pumps 5,000 gallons of blood throughout your body every 24 hours. A strong heart is necessary to deliver oxygenated and nutrient-rich blood to your organs and tissues. 

During pregnancy, your heart must work even harder to nurture and accommodate your developing baby. Since February is Heart Health Awareness Month, Board-certified OB/GYN Dr. Diana Heard and Nicola Maurer, NP of Glendale Obstetrics and Gynecology, PC, in Glendale, Arizona, are taking the opportunity to explain what every mother-to-be should know about how pregnancy impacts your heart.

Boosts cardiac output

Your heart undergoes profound changes that start early on in pregnancy. By reaching eight weeks gestation, your heart has increased its output by roughly 20%. As your pregnancy progresses, your heart increases its output by 40%. To facilitate this increase, your blood vessels widen and must remain soft and flexible. It’s extremely important to have a strong, healthy heart throughout your pregnancy so that appropriate physiological changes can occur.

Raises blood volume

Blood volume increases during pregnancy to provide your growing baby with nutrients and to reduce the impact of blood loss during delivery. This increases your body’s demand for iron to raise red blood cell production. Iron supplementation plays an important role in preventing deficiency during this critical time.

May cause heart-related complications

Pregnancy places additional stress on your heart. Still, most women, even those with a pre-existing heart condition, can safely become pregnant and have a healthy baby. 

However, about 4 out of 100 pregnancies in the United States are complicated by cardiovascular disease, such as preeclampsia, a blood pressure disorder. Pregnant women who develop preeclampsia experience elevated blood pressure that can damage organs like the kidneys and liver.

Preeclampsia may develop suddenly or slowly, making blood pressure monitoring during your pregnancy crucial. Left untreated, this condition can lead to serious complications for you and your baby. 

High blood pressure is often considered a silent condition because you may not experience symptoms. You may experience headaches, blurred vision, and nausea when symptoms are present. Report these symptoms to your care team right away.

May aggravate pre-existing heart conditions

Because pregnancy places additional stress on the heart, it may aggravate an existing heart condition. However, most women with heart conditions can have healthy pregnancies and deliver healthy babies. 

What to expect during a prenatal visit

You’ll see your health team at Glendale OBGYN frequently throughout your pregnancy. Between appointments, you should call your doctor if you’re regularly experiencing issues like heart palpitations. It’s necessary to seek immediate medical attention if you experience chest pain or difficulty breathing.

If you have heart disease and are planning a pregnancy, talk with your doctor in advance to assess your risks and learn how you can manage your heart condition while pregnant. 

Helping you have a happy, healthy pregnancy is our number one priority. For comprehensive prenatal care, call 602-298-8977 or book an appointment online with Glendale Obstetrics and Gynecology,