From morning sickness and fatigue to a sudden and strange craving for the notorious pickles and ice cream, there are an array of pregnancy related symptoms that many women expect. However, there is another common symptom that many women don't see coming, and it can be very distressing: chest pains. There are a number of reasons why pregnant women experience a strange or painful sensation in their chest and abdomen – and some are quite serious. Here are some of the reasons why expectant mothers experience chest pains:
Common Causes of Chest Pains During Pregnancy
Chest pain during pregnancy is more common than you might think, and in most cases, the cause is innocuous. Here are a few of the uncomfortable yet completely safe reasons why pregnant women experience chest pain:
Heartburn – According to Parents, approximately half of all pregnant women experience heartburn during their second and third trimester. The culprit is the mother's increased pregnancy hormones, which help slow down the digestive process, and the pressure of the growing baby on the expectant mother's stomach.
The Growing Baby – As the baby gets bigger, it needs room to fit inside its mother's cramped uterus. To make space, a mother's ribcage will widen, which can lead to an uncomfortable sensation.
Indigestion – A symptom that often occurs with heartburn, indigestion occurs when gasses build in the digestive tract, which leads to chest pains and even shortness of breath. Luckily, indigestion can often be prevented when the expectant mother avoids certain trigger foods, such as spicy foods.
Larger Breasts – Another common and often overlooked cause of chest pains is an expectant mother's growing chest. The extra weight and strain can lead to chest pains and shortness of breath.
In addition to these causes, chest pains can also occur in the expectant mother has a history of asthma, which can often be exacerbated by pregnancy. If you are expecting a baby and suffer from asthma, talk to your doctor about any potential complications.
Causes That Are More Serious
For many pregnant women, the causes of their chest pains can be easily remedied and won't cause any further complications. However, there are more distressing causes of chest pains that require immediate attention:
Deep Vein Thrombosis – Deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, occurs when a blood clot develops in a deep vein. Although DVT typically occurs in the leg veins, a chunk of the clot can break off and travel to the lungs and heart, which will cause the chest pain. One of the first symptoms of DVT is typically a combination of swelling and a burning sensation in the leg. Women who are over 35, overweight or have a history of heart or lung issues are at greater risk of developing DVT.
Heart Attack – Heart attacks in pregnant women are typically characterized by shortness of breath, lightheadedness, cold sweats and a severe pain in the center of the chest. Like DVT, heart attacks are most common in women who are overweight, over 35 and have an underlying heart condition.
High Blood Pressure – According to Baby Center, approximately 5 percent of pregnant women are diagnosed with chronic hypertension. This is a condition that often presents before 20 weeks and if left untreated, can lead to several pregnancy-related complications, including premature labor, placental abruption and a slower blood flow to the placenta and fetus.
If you are at high risk for developing any of the above-mentioned conditions, or are experiencing persistent and severe chest pains, don't hesitate to contact your primary care physician immediately. If you suspect you are having a heart attack, don't wait; call 911.
Pregnancy is fraught with several bizarre symptoms, although most of them are completely benign. If you are struggling with persistent chest pain or discomfort, don't let it impact your pregnancy and instead, work with your doctor to find a solution. Contact a clinic like Alpert Zales & Castro Pediatric Cardiology for more information.