Pregnancy is a complete package of hormonal upheavals, physical changes, and pressures on vital organs. One of the vital organs that bears the brunt of such pressure is the heart, especially at the time of delivery. This is because a pregnant woman’s cardiovascular system undergoes major physiological changes that prevail throughout the gestation period. The immense increase in the circulation of blood along with other factors may bring to the fore previously unknown heart problems. However, with proper care and treatment, these effects can be reversed in the weeks or months following a delivery (1). Here, based on expert opinions, we address a few factors that may increase the risk of a heart attack during pregnancy:
According to Dr. Keith Eddleman of WebMD, preeclampsia is one of the most common diseases that affect pregnancies (2). It is a pregnancy-induced condition marked by high blood pressure, increased protein in the urine, and swollen hands and feet. It usually occurs after the 20th week of gestation, but sometimes extends after delivery too. According to the Preeclampsia Foundation, women who have preeclampsia during pregnancy are at 3–4 times more risk of a high blood pressure. Their risk of a heart attack or stroke during pregnancy is also double (3).
2. Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes usually resolves soon after delivery. However, according to a research, this condition may put a woman at a risk of developing diabetes in the future. Dr. Erica P. Gunderson, senior scientist and lead author of the study, states that the study emphasizes on the need for such women to be monitored after childbirth for atherosclerosis – a condition where the build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries leads to heart attacks (4).
3. Coronary Heart Disease
The arteries supply the blood from the heart to the brain. A lot of factors like the build-up of fatty deposits or previous history of heart disease can cause the arteries to become narrow. During pregnancy, your heart needs to pump more blood than usual. So, if you are suffering from high blood pressure or obesity, these conditions may result in the narrowing of the arteries, resulting in a heart attack (5).
4. Artificial Heart Valve Issues
If you are already suffering from a heart disease and have undergone artificial heart valve replacement, then you too may be at the risk of a heart attack. Also, according to MayoClinic, apart from an artificial valve, even the malformation or scarring of your heart or valves may make it difficult for you to tolerate the increased blood flow during pregnancy (6).
According to the MayoClinic staff, minor irregularities of the heartbeat is common during pregnancy due to the increased blood pumping. However, if you are diagnosed with a heartbeat that is either too slow (bradycardia) or too fast (tachycardia), you’ll most likely be prescribed medications to treat them (7).
How To Deal With These Complications?
Now that we have discussed these health conditions, do not panic or stress about it as it’ll only worsen your condition. Here are a few important suggestions you can follow:
- Be Regular With Prenatal Hospital Visits: Your doctors will be certainly aware of your condition. Being regularly in touch with them will help them monitor your condition effectively.
- Speed-Dial The Dr: If you experience any unusual symptoms like breathlessness, fatigue, extreme dizziness or chest pain, call your doctor immediately. Also, keep checking with your doctor for other symptoms that you need to look out for.
- Don’t Miss The Prescribed Medications: Those prescribed medications are to protect you and your baby. So never miss them!
- Check On Weight Gain: Don’t go for strenuous exercises without medical advice. Try to maintain a healthy weight by incorporating a healthy diet to avoid gestational diabetes and other complications.
- Rest Yourself Aplenty: Your body is as it is overworking, so try and take as much rest as possible. Remember to put your feet up if you feel short of breath or lethargic even for a short while.
- Give Up Addictions: Give up on smoking, coffee, energy drinks, alcohol, or drugs. These are anyways a big no-no during pregnancy.
Pregnancy is not an easy journey, especially for your body. Therefore, it is important for every woman, with or without a history of heart disease, to be aware of such risks. And never hesitate to call your doctor even if the symptoms seem minor. Because a stitch in time can save nine! Have a healthy pregnancy!