Women’s Health 6 MIN READ

Pregnancy heart rate: What you should know

Pregnancy can be beautiful and scary at the same time. The body changes in ways you haven’t seen before, both internally and externally.

Written by Alina Gufran

Apr 12, 2022
pregnancy heart rate 2

Pregnancy can be beautiful and scary at the same time. The body changes in ways you haven’t seen before, both internally and externally.

One of the more confusing aspects of pregnancy is heart palpitations.

pregnancy what know


  • There are many factors that can increase the risk of heart palpitations. These include anxiety & depression, caffeine, lack of electrolytes, extra weight and obesity, hormonal changes, hypoglycemia, hypotension, anaemia or low blood cell count,
  • Heart palpitations during pregnancy don’t require treatment if they occur infrequently and don’t result from a pre-existing heart condition or other heart problems,
  • Some diet and lifestyle routines can be followed to keep them at bay such as hydration, relaxation techniques and limiting sugar, caffeine and fat.

Heart palpitations usually feel like your heart is racing, pounding or beating abnormally. Your heart rate might slow down, speed up or skip a beat. Some people may feel like they have an extra heartbeat.

The heart of the pregnant mother works harder to pump more blood through the body and to the baby. This extra labour can cause heart palpitations.

Usually, palpitations are no cause for alarm and normally go away after delivery, but sometimes, they can be a sign of a more serious health issue, like arrhythmia. If the palpitations are accompanied with difficult breathing, dizziness, confusion and chest pain, medical help is recommended.

Heart rate is an important indicator of bodily health. It measures the number of times per minute that the heartbeats or contracts. The normal resting heart rate for adults over the age of ten years is between 60 to 100 beats per minute.

The same heart rate speeds up during exercise, varying according to the age of the person.

While physical activity can increase the heart rate, an overall decrease in target heart rate (defined as how fast the heart should beat during exercise; an increased heart rate is considered good and can lead to better fitness) is possible over time.

This means the heart works less to get the required oxygen and nutrients to the different parts of the body, making it overall more efficient. Cardiovascular training aims to reduce the target heart rate and the ideal heart rate also reduces with age.

The maximum heart rate demonstrates the full capability of the heart and can be reached through high-intensity exercise.

Normal heart rate during pregnancy

In a pregnant woman’s body, the volume of blood increases by 40-50 per cent. The amount of blood pumped by the heart each minute increases by 30-40 per cent.

The heart rate increases to about 10-15 beats per minute and the blood pressure drop. These changes are normal but can put additional stress on the body and cause fatigue, light-headedness and shortness of breath.

Some symptoms of heart palpitations are

  1. Fluttering is a sensation of flapping or fluttery feeling in the chest as if the heart is doing flips,
  2. Irregular heartbeat, which feels like the heart skips a beat, is speeding up or slowing down or beating out of rhythm; it may also seem like the heart stops for a second or two,
  3. Pounding, which may feel like the heart is beating forcefully or can be heard beating in the ears.

What disrupts heart rate during pregnancy?

There are a number of factors that increase the risk of palpitations. They are

  1. Anxiety and depression: Being under a lot of stress or dealing with anxiety,
  2. Caffeine: Especially when consumed in chocolate and coffee. Foods that are high in carbohydrates, sugar, fat or sodium can cause a racing heart,
  3. Dehydration and an electrolyte imbalance; the latter are minerals that control the heart’s rhythm,
  4. Anaemia or low blood cell count: This condition can commonly affect pregnant women since the fluid in the blood increases more than the number of red blood cells,
  5. Extra weight and obesity: Mothers who carry extra weight do have an increased risk of irregular heart rate and heart disease,
  6. Hormonal changes: Shifts in hormones like estrogen that happen during pregnancy,
  7. Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar can occur during the first trimester,
  8. Hypotension or low blood pressure is also a common condition during pregnancy.

Heart palpitations can also occur due to the following health conditions or disorders

  1. Heart rhythm problems, such as atrial fibrillation, can cause or worsen heart palpitations during pregnancy. In rare occurrences, a heart attack, heart failure or cardiomyopathy (a disease that makes it harder to pump blood to the rest of the body) can lead to heart problems while pregnant,
  2. Myocarditis is the inflammation of the heart muscle that results from a viral infection,
  3. Thyroid issues like hyperthyroidism,
  4. Structural problems in the heart such as valve disease.

Dangerous heart rate can be noticed with symptoms such as

  1. Chest pain or discomfort,
  2. Difficulty in breathing and other breathing problems such as shortness of breath,
  3. Dizziness or confusion,
  4. Loss of consciousness or fainting,
  5. Unusual or sudden fatigue,
  6. Severe swelling in the legs, feet or ankles.

Getting medical attention if any of these symptoms accompany heart palpitations is highly recommended.

How to regulate irregular heart rate during pregnancy

Heart palpitations during pregnancy don’t require treatment if they happen infrequently and don’t result from a pre-existing heart condition or other heart problems. Some diet and lifestyle routines can be followed to keep them at bay

  1. Hydration: Drinking lots of water while pregnant is of utmost importance because the body needs extra fluids to keep you and your baby alive. Avoiding alcohol and nicotine is also highly recommended. Both can harm the baby and increase the risk of heart palpitations,
  2. Relaxation techniques: Taking long, deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth and meditation also help,
  3. Limiting sugar, caffeine and fat: Sticking to one cup of coffee and eating chocolate, sugary or caffeinated foods in moderation is recommended.

If you have a heart condition or any other health condition, consult a doctor to develop a treatment plan for palpitations that’s safe for you and your baby.


Heart palpitations are common in pregnant women. They occur when the heart beats 10-15 more beats than normal per minute. This isn’t a cause for alarm unless it’s accompanied by chest pains, dizziness and confusion.

Disruptions in heart rate during pregnancy can be caused by several factors like anxiety or depression, dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, low blood sugar or low blood pressure, obesity, hormonal changes and thyroid issues.

Some ways to regulate the heart rate during pregnancy are relaxation techniques like meditation, staying well hydrated and limiting caffeine, sugar and fat. A calm mind and relaxed body with a healthy diet are good ways to keep heart palpitations at bay.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for general information and educational purposes only. It neither provides any medical advice nor intends to substitute professional medical opinion on the treatment, diagnosis, prevention or alleviation of any disease, disorder or disability. Always consult with your doctor or qualified healthcare professional about your health condition and/or concerns and before undertaking a new health care regimen including making any dietary or lifestyle changes.


  1. Heart Palpitations in Pregnancy: Causes and Treatment Options
  2. Heart rate: What is a normal heart rate?
  3. How Pregnancy Affects a Mother’s Heart – Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies

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