Cardiovascular Conditions During Pregnancy
Due to increased stress the heart endures during pregnancy, cardiovascular disorders can develop.
- High blood pressure (hypertension) can put the mother and baby at risk during pregnancy, delivery and after the baby is born. There are many risk factors that can increase your risk of developing hypertension during pregnancy that includes history of hypertension, first pregnancy, women older than 35, Black women, obesity and multiple pregnancies. Hypertensions can cause a number of cardiovascular complications for the mother that can include:
- Preeclampsia is characterized by high blood pressure and can damage other organ systems, like the kidneys and liver. Symptoms usually begin after 20 weeks of pregnancy in women with normal blood pressure. Symptoms include:
- Severe headaches
- Change in vision (temporary loss, blurred, light sensitivity)
- Nausea or vomiting
- Decreased urine output
- Shortness of breath
- Eclampsia is a life-threatening complication to develop seizures and coma. Preeclampsia can often progress severe preeclampsia and ultimately eclampsia.
- Stroke occurs when there is an interrupted or reduced blood supply to the brain. Preeclampsia and eclampsia are both risk factors for developing a stroke during delivery or after.
- Peripartum Cardiomyopathy, also known as postpartum cardiomyopathy, is a form of heart failure that happens during the last month of pregnancy or 5 months after delivery. Within this condition the heart chambers grow bigger and the heart muscles weaken which leads to less blood flow. The heart is not able to deliver the body’s demands for oxygen in the blood and starts to affect other organs. Symptoms include:
- Increased urination at night
- Swollen ankles
- Swollen neck veins
- Low blood pressure, or sudden drop when standing up
- For more information on peripartum cardiomyopathy visit the American Heart Association website, Peripartum Cardiomyopathy.
- A condition in which the heart beats irregularly or at an abnormal rhythm. It is the most common cardiac disorder during pregnancy and can be an indicator of an unknown heart condition.
Cardiovascular disease makes up 15.5% of all pregnancy related deaths. Blood volume increases from 30-50% during pregnancy which means the heart is doing more work. The heart works 2x more during pregnancy to circulate nourishment for the fetus. It is important to keep optimal cardiovascular health and be able to recognize alarming cardiovascular symptoms that can happen during pregnancy and birth.
Cardiovascular symptoms during pregnancy
- Due to the excess exhaustion that your heart is under it can cause several symptoms. Most of them are normal, however others can indicate an underlying condition. Talk with your doctor about anything that you are concerned about. Symptoms include:
- Severe or mild orthopnea
- Palpitations that persist or worsen with exertion
- Chest pain
- Severe shortness of breath at rest
- There are several risk factors to be aware of that can cause heart disease or complications during pregnancy.
- Over the age of 30 during pregnancy
- Multiple pregnancies
- History of preeclampsia or gestational diabetes in other pregnancies
- Pre-existing heart disease: cardiomyopathy, myocarditis, endocarditis, arrhythmias and congenital heart disease
- Substance abuse during pregnancy
- Obesity, diabetes, or high blood pressure
- Poor nutrition before or during pregnancy
- Black women are statistically more at risk for cardiovascular disorders during pregnancy
Improve cardiovascular symptoms during pregnancy
- The heart goes through immense exertion during pregnancy. There are several factors that you can do to improve or maintain cardiovascular health during and after pregnancy:
- Regular physical activity
- Avoid alcohol, smoking, and any form of drug
- Manage stress
- Eat healthy