Heart Palpitations During Pregnancy

Heart palpitation is usually described as a panic state that is marked by feeling of fluttering in the chest and struggle for breathing as if the heart has stopped pumping. This feeling is easily identified by individuals who are experiencing it. In some cases no specific symptom is reported and the patient remains normal. It is noteworthy that heart palpitations during pregnancy is a normal occurrence and does not always pose a threat to the child or the mother. It is estimated that almost everyone experiences heart palpitations at some point in their life due to variety of reasons. However, when it’s starting to cause worry, seek medical advice.

Is It Normal to Have Heart Palpitations During Pregnancy?

Having heart palpitations when pregnant is usually a result of excessive workload on the heart. The supply and demand balance of circulation is significantly altered during normal gestation as approximately 50 percent extra amount of blood is pumped into the circulation to maintain high tissue oxygenation in mother and the baby. Certain characteristics that are noteworthy in the setting of heart palpitations during pregnancy are:

  • These rhythm abnormalities generally appear when the pregnant female performs strenuous activity; thereby putting extra pressure on the heart such as exercise, depression and stress, excessive workload etc.
  • The most common identifying symptom which appears during heart palpitations is compromised breathing and shortness of breath.

There Are Times When One Should Worry

It should also be noticed that heart palpitations may occasionally occur due to a congenital or acquired heart condition. If the female is at high risk of developing a heart disease due to genetic or environmental factors then she should consult her physician for early detection and proper management.  

A halter monitor can be used to monitor and record the person’s heart beat continuously for a period of up to 24 hours. Serious medical care is required if the palpitations are frequent, increasing in intensity or are not stopping with rest.

Possible Causes of Heart PalpitationsDuring Pregnancy

1.       Lifestyle Changes

One of the major causes of developing new onset heart palpitations when pregnant is change in the lifestyle.

  • Adrenaline is a hormone which is released when the body is overexerted; this release of adrenaline is responsible for causing heart palpitations.
  • Excessive intake of oily and junk foods can also cause palpitations.
  • Smoking and alcohol are also considered as triggering factors.
  • If you know that the heart palpitations are due to lifestyle changes; then it is recommended to do relaxation exercises, reduce the intake of oily foods and quit alcohol and smoking.

2.       Emotional Response Like Panic Attacks

Palpitations come due to different emotional responses. They are not specific to pregnant females only and can affect people of any age or gender.

Heart palpitations can also be due to anxiety and stress, which counts into panic attacks. A panic attack is characterized by feeling of anxiety, fear, nausea, heavy sweating and heart palpitations.

3.       Certain Medications

Heart palpitations can also be result of use of certain medications. The medicines include asthma controlling agents and medicines used for controlling thyroid levels. If the patient has developed palpitations after starting a new medication, then consulting the physician becomes necessary for drug/ dose management.

4.       Hormonal Changes Like High Progesterone

Hormonal change in pregnancy can also precipitate heart palpitations by changing the receptor activity of hormones and causing circulatory disturbances.

Progesterone is an important female hormone which performs vital reproductive functions in addition to maintaining the metabolism of the body. One of the effects of progesterone is to cause heart palpitations by increasing the heartrate. When this happens the heart tends to beat at a much higher rate than normal.

5.       Medical Conditions

Some medical conditions can also trigger heart palpitations during pregnancy such as:

  • Low blood sugar levels
  • Low blood pressure
  • Excessive dehydration
  • High grade fever
  • Anemia
  • Hyperactive thyroid
  • Supraventricular tachycardia

What to Do About Heart Palpitations

Take Ample Rest

Heart palpitations during pregnancy are not considered harmful unless the cause is cardiac dysfunction. If the palpitations are coming frequently with an increased heartrate, then the person must consult the physician to get appropriate medical care. Generally rest is recommended by healthcare providers to control the overactivity of heart.

Take Shower or Cold Water Splashing

Taking a shower with cold water or splashing cold water on face has shown effective results in controlling palpitations. It also helps in resetting the normal rhythm of heart.

Do Deep Breathing Exercises

Deep breathing exercises (also known as relaxation exercises) help in calming down the stiffed body tissues and controls the anxiety to address palpitations as well. Here’s how to do it, note that you can do this while sitting down in a relaxing way:

Know When to Call the Doctor

Thyroid levels should be checked, as in many instances the palpitations can be result ofoveractive thyroid. Consult with physician if the thyroid levels are coming high.It can also represents cardiac arrhythmia (a rhythm dysfunction of heart). If a female is experiencing heart palpitations during pregnancy then she should be thoroughly examined for the presence of cardiac arrhythmia.

What Others Have Experienced and Suggested

“I am experiencing heart palpitations even before I got pregnant. I have consulted my cardiologist before my pregnancy, but everything was normal. Now I am 27 weeks and these palpitations are occurring more frequently (even disturbing my seep). My cardiologist says that these are benign. So I guess it is a normal symptom of pregnancy that I have to deal with.”

“My doctor said that these palpitations are normal as long as I don’t faint or pass out. He also said that some possible causes of these palpitations include diabetes, preeclampsia etc.”

“I am 23 weeks pregnant and I am experiencing heart palpitations since some time. My cardiologist has diagnosed me with PVC which gets worsen when I take anti-histamine. When I experience palpitations, I just try to relax and perform deep breathing exercises so that it does not start racing more. What I have been informed is that such palpitations are normal due to hormonal changes and anxiety in pregnancy.”

“I only get palpitations when I lie down for sleep at night, I don’t know why it happens but my doctor told me that it’s normal.”

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