It may feel like your heart doubles in size after you have your baby because of the love you feel. In reality, your heart is almost doubling its workload during your pregnancy. You’ve heard the saying that you’re eating for two. In the case of your heart, it’s sort of working on behalf of two.
Most women’s hearts can handle this extra work, but for others, especially those with heart disease or those at risk of developing heart disease, it can lead to complications. Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death during pregnancy in the United States.
In honor of National Heart Health Awareness Month this February, we at the Center for Women’s Health in Wichita, Kansas, want to share information on how pregnancy affects your heart. We also want to share useful information on how to reduce your risk of complications so that you go on to have a healthy delivery and baby.
How your heart changes during pregnancy
As your pregnancy progresses, your heart works harder to provide enough oxygen for both you and your baby. For example, during pregnancy, your blood volume increases by 40-50%. The amount of blood your heart is pumping to your organs increases by 30-40%. And your heart rate increases by 10-15 beats per minute.
For most women, these changes don’t present a problem. The heart can handle the extra work. For some women who have an undiagnosed heart defect or undiagnosed heart disease, this extra work may cause them to have symptoms for the first time.
If you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease or a heart condition, it’s a good idea to talk to our OB/GYN, Sharon K. Breit, MD, and your cardiologist before you get pregnant.
Your medical team will monitor you closely and make recommendations for any treatment or medication changes that you need before and during your pregnancy. Careful preparation and ongoing care can help ensure that you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
How to reduce your heart-related pregnancy complications
Staying well-rested and eating a healthy diet is good advice for all pregnant women, but it’s especially important if you have heart issues or heart concerns. Here are the top tips to maximize your health during pregnancy and the health of your baby:
- Keep your prenatal appointments
- Take your medication, if prescribed
- Get to or maintain a healthy weight
- Stay hydrated
- Avoid alcohol, smoking, and illegal drugs
- Reduce stress
For more information on keeping your heart and your baby healthy, call us at the Center for Women’s Health to make an appointment today. You can also request an appointment with Dr. Breit through our online tool.