Fast Heart Rate in Pregnancy: Understanding the Physiology and Causes
Many changes take place in a woman’s body during pregnancy, including changes that affect the heart. An increase in heart rate is expected and can be seen on a regular basis. In some cases, however, pregnant women experience an abnormally fast heart rate, also known as tachycardia.
Understanding Normal Heart Rates During Pregnancy
A woman’s resting heart rate, or pulse rate, generally increases during pregnancy due to changes in the body. The average resting heart rate during pregnancy ranges from 80-150 beats per minute, normally increasing by 10-15 beats per minute by the third trimester. The increased heart rate compensates for the extra workload that a pregnant woman’s body is under.
When is Fast Heart Rate a Cause for Concern?
Though an increased resting heart rate is to be expected during normal pregnancy, a very fast heart rate could indicate an underlying medical condition. If a pregnant woman’s heart rate is over 140 beats per minute, she should be evaluated, as this could indicate a medical complication such as:
- Heart Arrythmia – A disturbance in the regular pattern of heartbeats
- Pre-eclampsia – A condition of high blood pressure and swelling of the feet and ankles caused by an increase of protein in the urine
- Anemia – A reduction in the number of red blood cells, leading to lower levels of oxygen in the blood
- Fetal Distress – insufficient oxygen supply to the fetus which can result in fetal distress and the need for an emergency delivery
Accompanying the rapid heart rate may be dizziness, fainting, or chest pain. A fast heartbeat during pregnancy can be a symptom of either a normal physiologic response to the body changes during pregnancy or a sign of a serious condition. It is important to be evaluated by a health care provider if an abnormally fast heart rate is experienced.
Preventing Fast Heart Rate
If a pregnant woman experiences an abnormally fast heart rate, resting and relaxing can help slow down the heart. Women should also avoid lying flat on their back and should take frequent breaks when performing activities that require standing or walking. Keeping hydrated and avoiding caffeine and nicotine may also help reduce a rapid heart rate.
An elevated heart rate during pregnancy is normal, but if it becomes excessive, a woman should be examined to see if there is an underlying medical cause. Prevention includes taking breaks when needed, proper hydration, and avoiding stimulants. With proper management, an elevated heart rate can be controlled.
By understanding the physiology behind a fast heart rate as well as potential complications, pregnant women will be better equipped to recognize when an abnormally fast heart rate has occurred and seek professional care.
If you are pregnant and are concerned about your heart rate, talk to your healthcare provider for more information and medical advice.
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