How Pregnancy Impacts Your Cardiovascular System

How Pregnancy Impacts Your Cardiovascular System

You know the old saying: When you’re pregnant, you eat for two. But it’s not just your digestive system that works overtime. Your cardiovascular system has extra demands, too.

These extra demands are necessary to provide adequate blood and nutrients for both the mother and the baby, and they support the health of the uterus and the placenta. But although increased cardiovascular work is a natural part of pregnancy, not all women tolerate it. In fact, pregnancy can expose underlying “silent” heart problems that, until pregnancy, went undiagnosed. 

When your cardiovascular system doesn’t adapt to the demands of pregnancy, it can result in significant problems for moms and babies. In fact, cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of maternal death in the United States.

With locations in Glendale, Goodyear, Anthem, and Canyon City, Arizona, Phoenix Heart, PLLC, has substantial experience in managing cardiovascular problems during pregnancy, focusing on the health of both the mom and the baby. Here’s what our team wants you to know about pregnancy and your cardiovascular health.

Cardiovascular changes during pregnancy

Many cardiovascular changes happen during pregnancy as a result of changes in hormone levels that occur when you’re expecting. These are four of the primary cardiovascular-related changes you can expect during pregnancy.

Cardiac output

Cardiac output refers to the amount of blood your heart pumps out every minute, usually given out in liters. During pregnancy, cardiac output increases in order to provide the extra blood needed to nourish the developing baby. If you’re carrying one baby, the output can increase as much as 45%. Cardiac output increases even more if you’re pregnant with multiples.

Heart rate

Heart rate also increases during pregnancy. In most women, heart rate increases as much as 25% by the third trimester. 

Vasodilation

Vasodilation refers to the widening or dilation of the blood vessels. During pregnancy, vasodilation helps your body deliver the extra blood you and the baby need. 

Blood pressure

In healthy women, blood pressure decreases during pregnancy. This is partly due to the effects of vasodilation. The decrease mostly occurs during the first trimester, reaching its lowest point during the second trimester.

Cardiovascular complications

Depending on your risk factors, the stresses of pregnancy can cause many of the same cardiovascular issues you could experience without being pregnant. But some issues can only happen during pregnancy, including preeclampsia and fetal growth restriction.

Preeclampsia is a serious type of high blood pressure that happens during pregnancy, usually becoming most serious during the final trimester. You can have preeclampsia even if you didn’t have hypertension before becoming pregnant. 

Fetal growth restriction affects the developing baby, restricting the delivery of oxygen and nutrients and interfering with the baby’s normal development. Cardiovascular issues are one common cause, along with other factors, like problems with the placenta.

When cardiovascular complications are suspected, our team often turns to echocardiography (ultrasound) to evaluate your heart and the way it’s functioning. Just like the ultrasounds you have of your uterus and developing baby, echocardiography doesn’t use radiation, so it’s completely safe for mother and child.

Learn more about pregnancy and cardiovascular health

Cardiovascular risks during pregnancy can have very serious — even life-threatening — consequences for the mother and the baby. Fortunately, these problems are largely preventable and treatable. To learn more about heart health during pregnancy and how we can help, book an appointment online or over the phone with the team at Phoenix Heart today.

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