Before becoming pregnant, it’s important to know how it affects your heart and circulatory system. While most women will not experience any heart-related problems during pregnancy, sometimes the extra demand placed on the heart can be too much. This is particularly true for women who have pre-existing heart conditions or those at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Although the risk is higher for those with heart conditions, it’s good to remember that the majority of women do deliver healthy babies.
What happens to your heart during pregnancy?
While pregnant, your heart and circulatory system have to work overtime to accommodate your growing baby. To ensure your baby is getting all the nutrients it needs to develop, your blood volume increases by 30 to 50 percent. Your heart rate is forced to increase in order to pump the extra blood through your body efficiently.
Delivery and labor also place strain on the heart, particularly during labor, as pushing can cause sudden changes to both your blood flow and pressure.
Following pregnancy and delivery, it generally takes a few weeks for your heart and circulatory system to return to the same levels as before pregnancy.
What can I do to prepare for pregnancy?
Preparing for pregnancy understandably can result in a lot of questions regarding your general health and wellbeing both before conception and during pregnancy. It’s always best to schedule an appointment prior to conception to ease some of this anxiety and make sure that you are well informed.
To minimize your risk of heart-related complications during pregnancy, it’s a good idea to improve your health as much as possible before getting pregnant. This could mean losing weight by improving your diet and including more activity in your daily routine.
If you do have any pre-existing heart conditions, talk to your cardiologist before trying to conceive. During the appointment, you can talk through any concerns and current issues you might have.
If you’re considered to be a high-risk pregnancy, you’ll likely be referred to a maternal-fetal specialist (an obstetrician specializing in high-risk pregnancies).
Sometimes, the heart medications you are currently taking won’t be suitable for pregnancy. An adjustment in dosage might be necessary, or your doctor may decide to substitute other medication following a discussion about the risks associated with what you’re currently taking.
Keeping your health provider in the loop by scheduling your preconception appointment is the best thing you can do to lower risks associated with heart health and pregnancy.
Following these steps will allow your medical providers to monitor your heart condition and take the necessary precautions to ensure it’s being managed properly.
What should I do during pregnancy?
During pregnancy, it’s always better to be slightly more cautious than usual and be as attentive to your health as possible. Detecting problems early on can help prevent further issues and complications — ensuring your pregnancy is as healthy as possible.
While some symptoms and side effects are to be expected during pregnancy, you should keep an eye out for the following:
- Shortness of breath
Although you can also expect to experience these symptoms during a healthy pregnancy, if they affect your life on a daily basis or worsen quickly, you should schedule a visit to your doctor.
How do I monitor my baby?
Monitoring your baby’s health and development is routine during pregnancy. Ultrasound exams track your baby’s growth, and if your baby is at a higher risk than normal, specialized ultrasounds can detect any heart abnormalities. Following delivery, it’s possible that your healthcare provider will continue to monitor your baby for certain complications and provide treatment.
The best way to increase the chance of a healthy pregnancy and baby is to make sure you’re taking good care of your health.
Visiting your health provider regularly during pregnancy is essential to tracking your baby’s essential development and looking out for any potential issues or complications that may need to be addressed. Attending prenatal appointments is also a good chance for your doctor to check in with you and evaluate your health during pregnancy.
Monitor your own health
Make sure you’re eating regularly and sticking to a balanced diet. While we all know cravings during pregnancy can make a healthy diet much more difficult, it’s more important than ever to make sure that you’re well-nourished and getting all of the essential nutrients you and your baby need.
Although gaining some weight supports your baby’s development, gaining too much weight will only place additional stress on your heart. Try to remain well-rested and not partaking in too much strenuous physical activity.
Avoid harmful substances
It’s important to know which substances should be eliminated during pregnancy and what you can do to manage any addictions or cravings you might have. Alcohol, smoking, and narcotics should all be off-limits. These substances can all increase the chances of heart-related diseases and other serious issues.
If you’re worried about quitting or if you are unable to break your addiction, it’s important to have an honest conversation with your doctor to get the help and support you need.
Women’s Heart Health Month
February is Women’s Heart Health Month and is a great opportunity to think about prevention and consider the risk factors associated with heart health issues. Heart disease is common - almost 48 million women live with or are at risk of heart disease in the US.
This month, why not evaluate your health and take some time to think about whether you have a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and how you might manage your weight, cholesterol and blood pressure.
Our medical professionals would be happy to have an appointment with you, and you can even schedule one online through our appointment scheduler!