Women's  Healthcare Topics is a website about pregnancy and your newborn baby.

Heart Palpitations in Pregnancy

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Heart Beating Faster?

Learn about when heart palpitations in pregnancy are not normal.

Is your heart beating faster than normal these days? Don't panic if you start also to experience heart palpitations – a common pregnancy symptom.

Heart palpitations (the sensation that your heart is skipping beats or pounding) can be worrisome, but most of the time, they are merely a result of the cardiovascular changes in your body

What Causes Heart Palpitations during Pregnancy?

During pregnancy, your heart is responsible for supplying blood to your uterus. To accommodate your developing baby, your heart pumps out more blood than ever before. The volume of blood increases by 30 to 50 percent, and your heart rate speeds up. Prior to pregnancy, your normal heart rate was 70 beats per minute. When you are pregnant, your heart rate increases to 80 or 90 beats per minute. As a result of these heart and blood flow changes, you may experience heart palpitations from time to time.

When you are exercising, your heart rate and cardiac output (how much blood is being pumped by your heart) increases even more. With exercise, you may experience your heart pounding or racing that lasts for a few seconds.

Sometimes, you may experience heart palpitations because you've been consuming too much caffeine. (Remember that caffeine is a common ingredient in many foods, including chocolate, carbonated soda, and even brownies and cookies.) If caffeine is triggering your heart palpitations, you will want to cut down or eliminate caffeine from your diet.

Stress and anxiety can also trigger heart palpitations. If your heart palpitations are caused by stress, try to reduce stressful situations and being around stressful people. Deep relaxation or breathing exercises may help. You may also benefit from prenatal yoga or a prenatal massage.

When are Heart Palpitations a Sign of Trouble?

Occasionally, heart palpitations may be a symptom of an overactive thyroid (a condition called hyperthyroidism). Hyperthyroidism may pose a health risk for your unborn baby, so you will want to be diagnosed as soon as possible. You may require appropriate treatment to control your condition.

In rare cases, heart palpitations that are accompanied by shortness of breath may be a sign of cardiac arrhythmia – an abnormal heart beat. You will want to call your doctor right away if you have trouble breathing, dizziness, and fainting with your irregular heartbeat

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