How Does Pregnancy Affect the Heart?

How pregnancy impacts your heart. It's Heart Health Awareness Month.

You might not think about it, 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 has to work even harder to nurture and accommodate your developing baby. February is Heart Health Awareness Month and a great opportunity to learn how pregnancy impacts your heart.

Boosts cardiac output

Your heart undergoes profound changes that start early on in pregnancy. By the time you reach 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. Some women develop heart-related complications during pregnancy, such as preeclampsia, a blood pressure disorder. Pregnant women who develop preeclampsia experience elevated blood pressure that can damage organs like the kidney 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. When symptoms are present, you may experience headaches, blurred vision, and nausea. 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, you should know that 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 North Atlanta Women’s Care frequently throughout your pregnancy. Between appointments, you should call your doctor if you find that you’re regularly experiencing issues like heart palpitations. It’s necessary to seek immediate medical attention if you experience chest pain or difficulty breathing.

Helping you have a happy, healthy pregnancy is our number one priority. For comprehensive prenatal care, contact the experienced physicians at North Atlanta Women’s Care.

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