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Pregnancy & Heart Trouble

When a typically healthy pregnant woman is asked about her heart, she is probably only thinking about it being full of love for her unborn baby.  However, pregnancy can cause cardiac problems for some women.

What Causes Heart Trouble during Pregnancy?

During pregnancy, the heart is impacted by the excess weight and fluid carried by a woman’s body as well as hormonal changes.  All of these factors are potential precursors to certain cardiac issues.

Know the Symptoms

Symptoms of discomfort that may be part of the normal pregnancy can also be related to potential cardiac conditions, including:

  • Easy fatigability
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Overly swollen feet and ankles

Most of the time, these symptoms are benign, however, talk to your OB/GYN openly about what you are feeling.  If there are concerns, he or she will refer you to a cardiologist for further evaluation.

Common Cardiac Issues for Pregnant Women

The most common cardiac-related problems faced by pregnant women include:

  • Heart palpitations: Racing heart
  • Shortness of breath: Sometimes an underlying cause of heart failure
  • High blood pressure: Blood pressure reaches greater than 140/90 mm Hg
  • Peripartum or Postpartum cardiomyopathy: The heart weakens and cannot pump enough blood to support the body (occurs during pregnancy or right after delivery)
  • Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT): Abnormally fast heart beat

The prognosis is good for most of these conditions.  However, medication, follow-up, a healthy diet, exercise and the avoidance of caffeine are often indicated.

What to Expect from the Cardiologist Appointment

If you are referred to a cardiologist as a pregnant woman, you can expect a physical exam and a comprehensive review of your health history and symptoms.  In some cases, you may undergo additional diagnostic testing to identify potential cardiac problems that could be causing your discomfort. This testing will help the cardiologist determine if you have a heart condition and what treatment plan is needed.

Who’s at Risk?

While women with obesity are at a greater risk for heart complications during pregnancy, any healthy pregnant woman could develop symptoms.  Therefore, being aware of your heart health and open communication with your doctor will help ensure the delivery of a happy, healthy baby.

New WakeMed Women’s Hospital Opening May 2015

We’re counting down the weeks until the May 2015 grand opening of Wake County’s fifth full-service hospital, WakeMed North Family Health & Women’s Hospital. WakeMed North Healthplex at 10000 Falls of Neuse Road in Raleigh is currently being transformed into a 248,800-sq. ft., full-service women’s hospital designed with the unique needs of women in mind. It will feature a tranquil environment as well as amenities tailored to our patients’ needs. This includes spacious and comfortable labor and delivery rooms.