Heart Rate During Pregnancy

Heart Rate During Pregnancy

The definition of an abnormal heart rate during pregnancy can vary depending on the context and the individual. In general, a resting heart rate outside the range of 60 to 100 beats per minute (bpm) is usually considered abnormal. Bradycardia, which is a heart rate below 60 bpm, and tachycardia, which is a heart rate above 100 bpm, are both considered abnormal during pregnancy.

That said, it is essential to recognize that heart rate norms can vary widely during pregnancy based on several factors, including the trimester, level of physical activity and other individual differences. Any persistent or extreme deviations from the typical range should be evaluated by an experienced specialist who can determine the cause and ensure the well-being of both mother and baby. Pregnant women can find the specialized care they need in Tampa General Hospital’s Women’s Heart Program and Cardio-Obstetrics Program, both of which are housed in our renowned Heart and Vascular Institute.

What Causes an Abnormal Heart Rate During Pregnancy?

During pregnancy, many factors can affect a woman’s heart rate, causing it to pound, flutter, race or “skip a beat.” These include physiological changes, such as hormonal fluctuations and increased blood volume. As the heart works harder to pump blood to the placenta, it may compensate by lowering the blood pressure and pumping faster. A pre-existing heart condition may worsen due to the stress of pregnancy, while pregnancy-related cardiac conditions such as gestational hypertension and preeclampsia can also impact heart function. Finally, as always, emotional stress, caffeine intake and certain medications can contribute to abnormal heart rhythms.

What Are the Symptoms of an Abnormal Heart Rate During Pregnancy?

The symptoms of an abnormal heart rate during pregnancy can vary depending on whether the heart rate is too slow (bradycardia) or too fast (tachycardia).

Symptoms of Bradycardia

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Fainting or near-fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Confusion

Symptoms of Tachycardia

  • Heart palpitations
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Rapid or irregular pulse

How Is an Abnormal Heart Rate Diagnosed During Pregnancy?

During pregnancy, an increased heart rate may be normal to a certain extent due to the physiological changes that are occurring naturally within the body. However, severe or persistent symptoms that could point to an abnormal heart rate should be promptly evaluated by a physician. Additionally, regular prenatal checkups are essential for monitoring and addressing any cardiac concerns during pregnancy.

To determine the cause of an abnormal heart rate, a physician will typically ask about the symptoms, perform a physical examination and order diagnostic tests, such as:

How Is an Abnormal Heart Rate Treated During Pregnancy?

The treatment strategy for an abnormal heart rate during pregnancy can vary depending on the type and cause of the arrhythmia, the stage of the pregnancy and the overall health of the mother. In addition to close monitoring, a physician may suggest lifestyle modification, such as:

  • Reducing stress
  • Avoiding caffeine and other stimulants
  • Exercising moderately (if approved by the physician)
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Consuming a nutritious diet

If the abnormal heart rate is caused by a cardiac condition or another medical condition, the physician will develop a customized treatment plan that is safe for both mother and baby.

Benefit From World-Class Care at TGH

The cardiac specialists in TGH’s Women’s Heart Program and Cardio-Obstetrics Program provide comprehensive screening, diagnostic and treatment services specifically for women. However, we do much more than prevent, diagnose and treat cardiovascular conditions—we ensure a whole-person care experience that considers the unique needs of our pregnant patients throughout their entire pregnancy and postpartum journey.

If you would like to talk with an expert on our team, contact us at (813) 844-3900 to schedule an appointment.