Cardiovascular Changes During Pregnancy - What You Need To Know


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Do you have heart problems, and are you worried about how they will affect your pregnancy? Did you know that cardiovascular changes can lead to pregnancy complications? If this sounds like you, consider reading our post below.

Changes are synonymous with pregnancy, and cardiovascular changes are one of the many physiological changes while you are expecting. So here, we look at cardiovascular changes during pregnancy and how you can overcome any resulting cardiovascular problems.

What Are Cardiovascular Changes?

Pregnancy induces many physiological changes to adapt to your baby’s needs. The adaptations trigger changes in the cardiovascular system. In simple words, a maternal heart disease might interfere with your pregnancy and lead to adverse effects for you and your baby. Cardiovascular changes are quite normal and rather common, but they can lead to complications and increase your risk of contracting diseases and complicate labor.

Causes Of Cardiovascular Changes In Pregnancy:

So, we know that pregnancy or “nature’s stress test” leads to changes. Here, we look at the three major ones, which typically include:

1. Elevated Heart Rate:

Heart rate during pregnancy rises with a mean increase of 10-20 beats per minute. The mean value is between 78-89 beats per minute. The rise in heart rate occurs during early pregnancy and is elevated until term. The elevated heart rate can lead to cardiovascular changes.

2. Cardiac Output:

Cardiac output is the amount of blood pumped into the heart every minute. One of the most important and evident change in pregnancy is an increase blood volume. The blood volume increases in the sixth week of pregnancy and continues to increase rapidly until mid-pregnancy. The increase in blood volume correlates with fetal weight. The cardiac output also increases in pregnancy, and cardiac output in a twin pregnancy is almost 15% higher than a normal pregnancy. The heart is enlarged by hypertrophy and dilation. Pregnancy is also related to vasodilatation of the vasculature of the maternal kidneys.

3. Uterine Blood Flow:

There is a significant increase in the uterine blood flow during pregnancy. While you exercise, there is a decrease in uterine blood flow because of the diversion of blood. The oxygen consumption of the body in pregnancy also increases to 20%. This is because of the increased metabolic needs of the fetus.

Diagnosing Cardiovascular Changes In Pregnancy:

Recognizing cardiac complaints in pregnancy can be difficult at times. There is no well-defined guideline for treating such problems during pregnancy. Research is still ongoing, and hopefully there will soon be a study on this adaptation during pregnancy and labor.

Treating Cardiovascular Changes In Pregnancy:

The Fonton Procedure is one such surgical intervention that show the way to caval blood flow in pulmonary arteries. The method palliates patients with a single ventricle physiology. There is a bigger risk of congenital cardiac disease in the baby or you if you suffer from this heart defect (1).

Labor And Cardiovascular Changes In Pregnancy:

Cardiovascular changes can lead to many complications during pregnancy. If you suffer from cardiovascular conditions, you will experience more pain and anxiety, due to the blood volume increase. There is also an increase in the cardiac output during contractions. The anesthesia used in the C-section delivery can lead to hemodynamic changes.

More Information On The Cardiovascular System:

  • The Cardiovascular system mainly consists of blood vessels, the heart, and the blood that circulates the body. It is like a transportation system that helps supply oxygen to all parts of the body. The vessels absorb nutrients from the gastrointestinal tract to the tissues, cells, and the other organs of the body. This in turn enables these organs to generate the energy they require to perform various functions.
  • The blood also carries many waste products like carbon dioxide and other chemicals that the liver and kidneys flush from our system. Another crucial function of the cardiovascular system is to regulate body temperature, regulate the delivery and circulation of hormones and other agents that help you regulate body functions.
  • It is important to understand the cardiovascular system before you can understand the causes and the effects better. The cardiovascular system goes through many changes during pregnancy. Along with the changes we mention above, your heart’s size may increase due to the high workload. The heart must pump blood through the placenta and onto the fetus. The heart also needs to pump extra blood to the ever-increasing uterus and abdomen.

A Word OF Caution:

  • Many studies conclude that low-impact, steady and easy exercises like chair yoga, or prenatal aerobics can help improve the blood flow and prepare your body for labor. You should refrain from high-impact strenuous exercises as they may increase your heart rate and lead to many cardiovascular complications. Don’t work for too long, and ensure that you get enough rest while you are pregnant. Your body needs to rest. Otherwise, you may feel dizzy. The constant rest can reduce the blood pressure, and it cannot keep pace with your body’s demand for more oxygen.
  • As an expecting mom, you should avoid all exercises that involve lying on the back, as it can compress the blood vessels and return the blood to the heart. Strong or strenuous exercise may lead to decreased blood flow to the uterus as blood would then be diverted to the muscles. Also, avoid exercising in hot weather as it might cause breathlessness. The reduction in blood flow might also lead to edema, which is the cause of swelling. It typically occurs when there is fluid accumulation in your legs and feet.
  • Pregnant women typically experience back pain during pregnancy. The pain occurs due to changes in posture, as the body tries to accommodate the weight of the growing uterus. It puts a strain on the back hence causing the pain (2).

Cardiovascular changes are common during pregnancy, and you shouldn’t be too worried about minor changes. However, get in touch with your doctor if you feel something isn’t right. If you have any other information on cardiovascular changes in pregnancy, tell us about it here. Our readers would love to hear your views. So, leave a comment in the section below.


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