Research has it that during pregnancy the volume of blood in the body goes up by around 50%. The increased amount of blood in the body consequently causes the heart to work harder. Infact, the heart rate during pregnancy is about 25% faster than usual – resulting in heart palpitations or tachycardia – occasionally.
A fast beating heart during pregnancy is quite common, and mostly harmless. Tachycardia during pregnancy is largely seen as the hard work your body is doing while making a baby, yet, there are times when they can be indicative of serious, underlying health conditions. Let us know more about tachycardia during pregnancy.
What is tachycardia?
Basically, when your heart rate is above normal, the condition is termed as tachycardia. A normal human being’s heart rate ranges from about 60 to 100 beats per minute but when pregnant, the heart rate could go up by 10-20 beats per minute. This increased cardiac output can cause palpitations, but they are largely normal. To think of it, a pregnant woman’s body works harder and more when there is a fetus growing. Normal symptoms of tachycardia during pregnancy include shortness of breath, fatigue, discomfort or pain in the chest and dizziness after long periods of exhaustion.
Heart palpitations are most noticeable in the throat, chest and neck.
In extreme cases, one could faint or become numb due to heart palpitations.
What causes tachycardia during pregnancy?
Heart palpitations during pregnancy are due to all the increased work your heart has to do to support the growing fetus. As the volume of the blood increases, the heart has to work faster on pumping it and making sure the baby gets it to thrive and grow. When you are pregnant, there can be other reasons that can contribute to an increased heart rate such as –
- Stress and anxiety, panic attacks
- Hormonal changes during pregnancy
- Certain foods and drinks, such as caffeine and other stimulants which may increase the heart rate
- Underlying medical problems such as thyroid, low blood sugar
- Medical conditions such as asthma and anemia
- Being obese or overweight
- Performing vigorous or strenuous physical activities
- Allergy or overdose of prenatal vitamins
- Certain medicines that contain pseudoephedrine
- Excessive blood in the body and expanding organs like breasts, uterus, belly
- Growth of placenta that cushions the baby – which is basically a special tissue mass with a deep network of blood vessels
- Underlying heart disorder or disease
- Heart damage from pregnancy or any other condition
Sometimes, underlying heart disorders are actually detected during pregnancy, though they mask themselves under the normal pregnancy symptoms such as shortness of breath and fatigue. Tachycardia is more common in pregnant women during their third trimester.
Symptoms of tachycardia during pregnancy
You can watch out for the below symptoms if you suspect having palpitations –
- Shortness of breath, even when you are not exerting yourself
- Chest pain- that kind of stays dull and continuous
- Dizziness and feeling faint
- Difficulty in breathing
- Rapid heart rate or irregular pulse
Though during pregnancy you will have regular appointments with the doctor, if any of the above symptoms seem intense or you feel palpitations lasting long, seek out medical assistance. Never take any OTC drugs without prior consultation with the doctor. OTC medicines can cause serious complications during your pregnancy, and adversely affect your developing baby.
How can heart palpitations be diagnosed?
Should you feel palpitations interfering with your day-to-day life, you should reach out your doctor on immediate basis. Your doctor will probe your medical history, family history of heart diseases, other known conditions alongwith your routine check-up. He will also check-up on your lifestyle, any medications you may be taking and specific circumstances when palpitations occur.
Diagnostic tests such as an EKG (to measure the electrical activity of your heart), blood tests to determine thyroid, and watching your heart rhythms for a day or two may also be prescribed. X-ray of the chest may also be recommended by your doctor.
Based on the results, the doctor may prescribe further tests or conclude that your palpitations are not a cause of worry and can be managed without any medical intervention.
How to stop heart palpitations during pregnancy?
Pregnancy is a time when most doctors do not recommend medications to treat symptoms which can otherwise be managed with simple lifestyle changes. Simple and effective ways to treat tachycardia during pregnancy include –
- Keeping stress and anxiety at bay by regular meditation and yoga. You can even try aromatherapy under a known practitioner
- Keeping yourself hydrated
- Watching your weight and maintaining your stamina
- Refraining from performing strenuous physical activities
- Abstaining from stimulants like coffee, alcohol, and tobacco
- Staying happy, relaxed and calm during the gestation period
Having said that, it needs to be mentioned here that certain rare conditions of tachycardia do need medical intervention and seeking medical advice should not be delayed.