Heart palpitations during pregnancy: Causes and how to stop them
A heart palpitation may feel as though the heart is:
- skipping beats
- flopping in the chest
Heart palpitations are usually harmless. However, in some cases, they can indicate a problem in the heart or elsewhere in the body.
What are the symptoms?
Heart palpitations can cause a wide variety of symptoms. Pregnant women may experience one or any combination of the following:
- dizziness or lightheadedness
- a feeling of uneasiness
- a feeling that the heart is pounding
- a rapid heartbeat
- a fluttering or flopping feeling in the chest
- a sensation of the heart skipping beats
Only a doctor can correctly diagnose the cause of heart palpitations. The doctor will usually begin by asking about symptoms and medical history.
If a woman has any of the following, it is important to tell the doctor:
- a history of heart palpitations
- a history of heart disease
- a history of other problems that affect the heart
- a family history of heart disease
The doctor will usually then perform an exam and listen for abnormalities of the heartbeat. They will often perform additional tests to pinpoint the underlying cause of the palpitations.
The doctor may use any of the following to make a diagnosis:
- blood tests to look for imbalances and check the functioning of the thyroid
- an electrocardiogram to measure the heart’s electrical activity
- a Holter monitor test, which involves wearing a device that measures the heart’s rhythms for an extended period
Heart palpitations do not necessarily require treatment.
When symptoms are mild and do not result from an underlying condition, a doctor will usually not recommend treatment, and a woman can expect the palpitations to end with the pregnancy.
If symptoms are severe, a doctor may prescribe medication to regulate the heartbeat. The doctor will discuss the risks to the woman and fetus before prescribing medication.
The risks are higher during the first trimester, and a doctor is unlikely to prescribe medication then.
If a woman has an arrhythmia, a doctor can use a timed electrical current to return the heart to its normal rhythm. This procedure, called cardioversion, is considered safe during pregnancy.
Many pregnant women experience heart palpitations. They may be disconcerting, but most heart palpitations are harmless.
However, they can result from underlying problems that require medical treatment. Any pregnant woman who experiences heart palpitations should report her symptoms to her doctor for further evaluation because of this.
Heart palpitations during pregnancy often do not require treatment. For those who need treatment, many safe options are available.
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