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Heart Palpitations During Pregnancy

written by: Diana Cooper • edited by: Lisa Lambson • updated: 4/21/2010

Find common reasons for heart palpitations during pregnancy. Normally they are harmless and can be prevented. Learn what you can do to help keep them from occurring.

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    Heart Palpitations During Pregnancy

    During pregnancy, the body goes through some major changes, including the cardiovascular system.

    Blood volume progressively increases throughout the pregnancy, beginning in the first trimester and peaking in the middle of the third trimester at about 45% above nonpregnant levels. This increase in blood volume causes the heart to work harder and the added stress can be one of many reasons for heart palpitations during pregnancy.

    A heart palpitation is an awareness of your heartbeat. It can feel like your heart is "racing" or beating strongly in your chest. In some cases, your heartbeat may feel irregular or it may feel like your heart skipped a beat. Heart palpitations normally last only a few seconds or a few minutes.

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    Common Reasons for Heart Palpitations During Pregnancy

    Stress. Stress can raise blood pressure and cause your heart to beat faster. Although it is hard to avoid stress, there are things you can do to help manage it. The following are some healthy ways to decrease stress (if permitted by your health care provider):

    • perfoming prenatal yoga
    • walking in nature
    • doing deep breathing exercises
    • meditating
    • listening to soothing music
    • taking a warm bath (add some stress relieving essential oils to your bath water, such as geranium, chamomile, or lavender)
    • getting a gentle massage.

    Magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is an important nutrient for everyone, but it is especially important during pregnancy. Many Americans don't include enough magnesium in their diets and women suffering from morning sickness can particularly experience a deficiency if vomiting a lot. Eat more foods that are high in magnesium, including nuts, legumes, dark green vegetables, and wheat bran.

    Caffeine. Caffeine is a true stimulant drug that can increase the heart rate, cause extra heart beats, and produce a reaction indistinguishable from an anxiety attack if large amounts are consumed. It is best to avoid all beverages containing caffeine (or at least limit them to 1-2 drinks per day).

    Other reasons for heart palpitations during pregnancy can include:

    • strenuous exercise
    • an illness, like a fever
    • certain medications
    • nicotine, recreational drugs, and alcohol
    • health conditions associated with pregnancy, such as anemia and hypoglycemia.

    Although heart palpitations during pregnancy are common and are almost always harmless, you should still inform your health care provider.

    If heart palpitations are accompanied by other symptoms, such as chest pain, dizziness, lightheadedness, weakness, shortness of breath, unusual sweating, and/or fainting, call your health care provider immediately.

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    Disclaimer

    Please read this disclaimer regarding the information contained within this article.