It’s no surprise that pregnancy results in tremendous changes for your body, not only for your reproductive system, but also for every other supporting role in bringing you and your baby through the nine-month process. When it comes to your heart and circulatory system, pregnancy adds stresses that may cause immediate health concerns and could increase your risk for future heart-related problems.
While being pregnant affects your heart, however, there’s nothing new or surprising about these effects. Even if you have a pre-existing heart condition, you have an excellent chance of experiencing a trouble-free pregnancy.
Eating for two
During pregnancy, the volume of blood in your body can increase by as much as 50% due to the demands of nourishing your body as well as your baby’s and the support systems that protect them during gestation. This means your heart must work harder, pumping more blood, so it’s typical that your heart rate increases to meet these demands.
The physical exertion of labor and delivery are also major in terms of cardiac exertion. It typically takes several weeks after childbirth for your heart to return to its normal level of performance. Most mothers handle these physical stresses in stride, but sometimes risks arise from these added strains for those who have heart conditions.
Increased heart risks due to pregnancy
The amount of risk that pregnancy poses depends greatly on both the type of heart condition you have and its severity. If you’re aware you have a heart condition, let your OB/GYN know early in your pregnancy, and include Dr. Chane and the team at California Heart and Vein Specialists in your pregnancy health care team.
It’s normal during pregnancy to experience minor peculiarities with your heart rhythm. Generally, these aren’t a cause for concern. If you’ve had problems with irregular heartbeat prior to becoming pregnant, you can still undergo treatment with medication without it affecting your baby.
Congenital heart defects
If you were born with some type of heart defect, your child faces the risk of inheriting the same condition from you. Unless you’ve outgrown or had the defect fixed, the condition could affect your heart’s performance during the demands of pregnancy, labor, and delivery.
Heart valve problems
If you have a scarred or malformed heart valve, or if you have an artificial heart valve, you may be at increased risk of complications during pregnancy. These valves may have issues handling the increased volumes of blood. Artificial valves typically require blood thinning medications, the use of which must be altered while you’re pregnant. These drugs may affect your growing baby, and a reduced dosage may increase your risk of heart valve clotting.
Congestive heart failure
Once again, the demands made by increased blood volume could aggravate congestive heart failure if it’s present prior to pregnancy.
Other circulatory system impact
It’s common for women to develop varicose veins during pregnancy due to the failure of some of the valves in the veins of your legs. These may get worse over the course of your pregnancy, but varicose veins that first develop during pregnancy often improve without treatment in the year following delivery.
Keep California Heart and Vein Specialists in mind if you need to consider the impact of pregnancy on your heart and circulatory system. We’re happy to help you address your concerns, and you can arrange a consultation by phone or using our online booking tool.