Tachycardia in pregnancy

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During pregnancy the blood volume increases by 30 to 50% to provide the baby with oxygen and nutrients, as a result the heart pumps more blood every minute and heart rate increases. This explains why tachycardia in pregnancy is a phenomenon that occurs quite frequently, especially in the second half of gestation. An increase in heart rate, within certain limits, is physiological and it is not a problem neither for the woman nor for the child she carries in her womb.

But what to do if the palpitations get a little too fast? The word to the expert.

In this article

  • tachycardia in pregnancy 
  • the causes
  • symptoms
  • the treatment

Tachycardia in pregnancy

Tachycardia is the increase in heart rate over 100 beats per minute (bpm). "In pregnancy, an increase in heart rate within certain limits can be considered physiological" explains Filippo Crea, Full Professor of Cardiology - Director of the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences of the A. Gemelli Polyclinic of the city. "The heart has to pump blood for two and the most efficient mechanism at his disposal is precisely that of beating faster ".

In a nutshell, the beats, which normally correspond to approx 70 a minute, during gestation they can even reach 80/90. It is a phenomenon that mainly affects the second part of pregnancy, because as the baby grows the amount of nourishment he needs increases, but it can be appreciated, albeit to a lesser extent, already in the first months, when the cardiovascular system begins. to organize herself for the new task that awaits her. In any case, it is a tachycardia that a healthy organism is perfectly capable of managing and of which generally the woman does not even notice.

"Towards the end of pregnancy - continues Prof. Crea - even one can be associated with the increase in heartbeat greater feeling of breathlessness, due to the fact that the belly, as it grows, takes up space for the lungs, which expand less well. Without considering that at the end of pregnancy the pregnant woman puts on a few extra pounds, which is enough to engage the heart in extra work ". 

Causes of tachycardia in pregnancy

As we said, within certain limits the increase in heart rate during gestation can be considered physiological and therefore absolutely normal. In some cases, however, tachycardia is a sign that something is not going as it should. 

Anxiety in pregnancy can cause rapid heartbeat

Yes, even anxiety can play tricks and give us a few too many heartbeats, right from the first months of waiting: all the news we are experiencing, all the unknowns for the future, all the upheavals in our daily life habits, a little they can put anxiety on us. Without considering that when you are anxious you also become more sensitive to internal perceptions, including heartbeats. 

Read also: Anxiety in pregnancy, 4 tips to manage it

Anemia: the main cause of tachycardia in pregnancy

In pregnancy, tachycardia can be amplified by anemia, which is quite common in the nine months, when the need for iron increases. Anemia occurs when the hemoglobin value is less than 10 g / dl in the pregnant woman.

The task of iron is to transport oxygen in the blood and, if its concentration decreases, the circulating oxygen content is reduced and the heart is forced to "work overtime" to bring into circulation the amount of oxygen in which the mother and baby need. To find out if it is anemia, a very simple blood test is enough.

Sometimes it can also depend on the thyroid gland

There may also be one underlying tachycardia in pregnancy thyroid dysfunction which can manifest itself for the first time in pregnancy when the thyroid is particularly involved in the somatic and cerebral development of the fetus. If the thyroid is functioning more than normal - in medical terms this is called hyperthyroidism - it can consequently increase the heart rate. To find out if there are any changes, just take a blood test to measure the thyroid values. 

Read also: Thyroid in pregnancy and after childbirth

Or a little low blood pressure

An increase in heartbeat can also be linked to low pressure, which usually characterizes the first part of pregnancy, when there is a physiological vasodilation that can cause pressure drops. In this case there is really nothing to fear because it is a passing phenomenon, destined to resolve at the end of the second quarter, when the values ​​return to normal.

Read also: Low blood pressure in pregnancy

Other causes of tachycardia in pregnancy

Finally, among the other causes of tachycardia in pregnancy we also find:

  • heart disease, in this case you will need specific medications that your doctor will recommend;
  • excessive weight gain;
  • drug use;
  • detachment of the placenta;
  • an ectopic pregnancy.
Read also: Alcohol and drugs in pregnancy: the risks for the woman and the baby

Symptoms associated with tachycardia

Tachycardia in pregnancy can also be associated with other symptoms such as:

  • dizziness;
  • feeling of fainting;
  • tiredness / exhaustion;
  • agitation;
  • problems with swelling of the legs and feet.

What to do if the heart rate increases?

What to do if you feel an increase in heart rate? "Nothing, if the palpitations are modest and do not cause any discomfort" replies the expert. In the case of mild tachycardiaTherefore, the future mother only has to follow some simple precautions such as taking an adequate amount of fluids, getting enough rest and indulging in moments of relaxation or meditation to improve the well-being of the organism.

"But if the woman feels her heart beating faster, that's good do some checking, to first check if the thyroid is functioning well and if there is an iron deficiency. "In addition, if the gynecologist deems it appropriate, a cardiological visit plus any instrumental tests, such as an EKG, an echocardiogram, or a Holter.

"In less frequent cases - continues Prof. Crea - there may be cardiac causesFor example, it could be a paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia, an arrhythmia that occurs with palpitations associated with an elevated heart rate that can exceed 150 beats per minute. Or it could be another arrhythmia, atrial fibrillation, caused by mitral stenosis. The latter is a late complication of rheumatic fever, still present in the populations of developing countries but which fortunately has almost disappeared in Western countries thanks to antibiotic treatments ".

Sources used:

  • SIEOG guidelines, Del Paesena Society of Obstetric Gynecological Ultrasound, 2022;
  • Heart conditions and pregnancy: Know the risks, Mayo Clinic;

  • Managing palpitations and arrhythmias during pregnancy, Heart, 2007;

  • Tachycardia in pregnancy: when to worry?, Clinical Medical Journal, 2022.

  • tachycardia in pregnancy
  • increased pregnancy heart rate
  • pregnancy heart
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