Heart palpitations during pregnancy

heart palpitations during pregnancy

What causes heart palpitations during pregnancy?

Palpitation is the awareness of the heart beating.  Although they can be symptoms of various diseases, heart palpitations during pregnancy are normal and most of the cases are completely benign.

Most of the pregnant women experience heart palpitations during their pregnancy which go away on their own few seconds later.

Heart palpitations during pregnancy can be due to the following conditions:

a.    The increase of the blood volume - A pregnant woman contains up to 50% more blood volume than a non- pregnant one. This is a defense mechanism, to ensure the proper supply of blood to both, the fetus and the mother.

But, the pregnant woman must move this enhanced blood volume with the very same heart she relies upon when not pregnant, meaning that the heart has to work much harder and faster to afford this extra work.

Working and beating faster and harder, the heart becomes vulnerable to beating “errors “, resulting in an asynchronous beat, which Is perceived as a palpitation.

Usually, it lasts a few seconds and is accompanied by no other symptoms.

b.    Change in hormones in the body - Pregnancy changes the balance of hormones in the body.

Progesterone, a hormone, is more concentrated in a woman body during pregnancy than at any other period in her life. It causes the heart to beat faster and harder since in the very beginning of the pregnancy, to provide the proper supply of blood for the mother and fetus.

This condition makes the heart an easy prey of palpitations. These are benign palpitations, lasting only a few seconds with no other accompanied symptoms.

Also, other increased hormones during pregnancy can change the sodium and potassium channels in heart muscle, causing occasional benign palpitations.

c.     Emotional responses - Heart palpitations during pregnancy can be also due to an emotional response.

Pregnant women are extremely sensitive, and even the smallest things can affect their mood and can cause occasionally palpitations.

d.    Diseases - Sometimes, especially when accompanied by other symptoms like shortness of breath, chest pain, numbness of upper limbs.

When they occur often when lasting long, there might be an underlying disease causing these palpitations, and going to the doctor is an urgent matter.

How common are palpitations during pregnancy?

Heart palpitations during pregnancy are a very common situation. Pregnant women experience palpitations more than any other persons.

Almost 50% of pregnant women experience palpitations at least once during their pregnancy. Although they can be scary and disturbing sometimes, in most of the cases they are absolutely normal.

What is the treatment?

Heart palpitations during pregnancy are absolutely normal and very benign. Thus, they do not need specific treatment. Usually, they last few seconds to few minutes and die.

The first thing that needs to be done is to rule out the existence of an underlying disease causing these palpitations. If there is no disease, the treatment of palpitations is entirely conservative.

1.      Reducing stress and anxiety. Some stress- reducing ways are relaxation exercising, yoga, aromatherapy etc.

2.      Do not consume food, beverages containing caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, drugs.

3.      Resting

4.      If palpitations last long, some vagal maneuvers may be helpful, such as applying ice to the face, Valsalva maneuver ( a forceful exhalation while holding the nose and mouth shut).

When heart palpitations during pregnancy are caused by diseases like hyperthyroidism, low-blood pressure, a heart disease, or any other disease, treating the underlying disease treats the palpitations too. Taking meds as prescribed by the doctor will probably be necessary.


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