I am
Show me:
Show me:
Heart disease and pregnancy
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

Heart disease and pregnancy

Pregnancy is often referred to as the “ultimate stress test” for the body.

3 min read
As general advice, pregnant women are encouraged to eat a healthy diet, participate in regular physical activity, quit smoking, maintain a healthy weight and not drink alcohol during their pregnancy.

Pregnancy is often referred to as the “ultimate stress test” for the body. A woman’s blood volume increases by 30-50% over the course of her pregnancy. Labour and delivery exact a further toll on the body producing abrupt changes in blood flow and pressure, forcing the heart to work harder. 

If you experienced complications in pregnancy like preeclampsia or gestational diabetes, or have a pre-existing heart condition, make sure you discuss this with your healthcare team when planning a first pregnancy or subsequent pregnancies.

What complications can arise during pregnancy?

Most women will have a perfectly normal pregnancy, but a small number will have some sort of complication that may increase their blood pressure or their blood sugar levels.

These complications can include:
  • High blood pressure 
  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Gestational diabetes
If you have any of these complications you will also be closely monitored by your health team throughout your pregnancy.

If you experienced these types of complications during your pregnancy, let your doctor know so they can keep an eye on your heart.

What is pre-eclampsia?

Pre-eclampsia is a disorder that is unique to pregnancy. It affects some pregnant women during the second half of pregnancy or immediately after delivery of their baby.

Women with pre-eclampsia have high blood pressure, fluid retention and protein in their urine.

Women diagnosed with pre-eclampsia are at increased risk of high blood pressure and heart disease later in life compared to women who did not experience this condition

It is recommended that women who have had pre-eclampsia during pregnancy have an annual blood pressure check and regular assessment of other heart disease risk factors.

If you experienced preeclampsia during pregnancy and have not had regular blood pressure or heart health check, talk to your doctor so they can monitor and help manage your risk.

What is gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy and is diagnosed when higher than normal blood glucose levels appear during pregnancy. 

While the mother’s blood glucose usually returns to normal after the birth of the baby, women who have experienced gestational diabetes have an increased risk of developing Type II diabetes and heart disease in later life.

If you experienced gestational diabetes talk to your doctor about monitoring your heart health and managing your risk.

What should I do if I have a pre-existing heart condition?

Women with pre-existing heart conditions are encouraged to see their doctor before trying to conceive. They may also need closer monitoring throughout their pregnancy.

Because of the increased stress pregnancy and labour put on the heart, it is important that any woman with a pre-existing heart condition is assessed by a cardiologist before becoming pregnant.

WHAT NEXT?

Cardiac arrest at 33: the challenges of restarting your life

Cardiac arrest at 33: the challenges of restarting your life

Cardiac arrest at 33: the challenges of restarting your life

Emma shares her story and opens up about her emotional struggles....

What is angina?

What is angina?

What is angina?

Angina is a type of chest pain or discomfort that’s a symptom of an underlying heart problem, usually coronary heart disease (CHD)....

Blood pressure and your heart

Blood pressure and your heart

Blood pressure and your heart

Understand blood pressure and how it can impact your heart health....

Lessons learned: recovering from open heart surgery

Lessons learned: recovering from open heart surgery

Lessons learned: recovering from open heart surgery

After having five open heart surgeries between the ages of 13 and 41, Peter knows a thing or two about recovery....

What is atrial fibrillation?

What is atrial fibrillation?

What is atrial fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation is a type of arrhythmia where your heart beats irregularly and fast....

Blood cholesterol

Blood cholesterol

Blood cholesterol

Keeping your blood cholesterol at a healthy level can help you reduce your risk of heart disease and other serious conditions. ...

Fit, active and healthy – Sharon wasn’t expecting a heart attack

Fit, active and healthy – Sharon wasn’t expecting a heart attack

Fit, active and healthy – Sharon wasn’t expecting a heart attack

Fit, active and healthy, Sharon wasn’t expecting a heart attack. However, after experiencing a ‘widow maker’, she counts herself lucky....

What is a cardiac arrest?

What is a cardiac arrest?

What is a cardiac arrest?

With immediate help a cardiac arrest can be survived. Learn how to save a life....

Heart health information in your language

Heart health information in your language

A selection of heart health information brochures in a range languages...

What is coronary heart disease?

What is coronary heart disease?

What is coronary heart disease?

Coronary heart disease (CHD) or coronary artery disease occurs when a coronary artery clogs and narrows because of a buildup of plaque....

What is an arrhythmia?

What is an arrhythmia?

What is an arrhythmia?

Arrhythmia is a fault in the heart’s electrical system, which affects your heart’s pumping rhythm....

What is a heart attack?

What is a heart attack?

What is a heart attack?

The most common cause of a heart attack is coronary heart disease....

Heart conditions in women

Heart conditions in women

Heart conditions in women

Like men, women can be diagnosed with a range of heart conditions....

What is heart failure?

What is heart failure?

What is heart failure?

Heart failure is a condition where your heart isn’t pumping as well as it should be....

What is heart valve disease?

What is heart valve disease?

What is heart valve disease?

Heart valve disease means that your heart valve or valves don't open or close properly....

What is heart disease?

What is heart disease?

What is heart disease?

Heart disease is the broad term for conditions that affect the structure and function of the heart muscle. ...

Heart Age Calculator

Heart Age Calculator

Heart Age Calculator

Try our Heart Age Calculator to understand what contributes to your risk of heart disease....

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Join the fight against Australia’s biggest killer by supporting the Heart Foundation.  ...

Support and resources for health care professionals

Support and resources for health care professionals

Support and resources for health care professionals

Our range of clinical and patient support resources are available for you to use in your daily practice....

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

There is no single cause for any one heart condition, but there are risk factors that increase your chance of developing one. ...

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation programs and resources to support your recovery....

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Join the Heart Foundation community. Together, we can make a real difference for Australian hearts. ...

Clinical Guidelines

Clinical Guidelines

Clinical Guidelines

Full list of clinical guidlines and references for CVD, heart failure, ACS, hypertension, atrial fibrillation, SCAD and RHD...

Health professional online learning

Health professional online learning

We offer a number of modules focused on improving cardiovascular care....

Australian Heart Maps

Australian Heart Maps

Australian Heart Maps

Our Heart Maps allow you to take a closer look at heart disease indicators across Australia....

COVID-19 & cardiovascular disease

COVID-19 & cardiovascular disease

COVID-19 & cardiovascular disease

Information and resources for health care professionals....

Lipid management clinical information and resources

Lipid management clinical information and resources

Lipid management resources for health professionals...

Our Annual Reports

Our Annual Reports

Our Annual Reports

Discover our Annual reports from 2013 onwards. ...

Get started with more physical activity

Get started with more physical activity

Get started with more physical activity

Finding time for physical activity is one of the best things you can do for your heart...

Healthy Active by Design

Healthy Active by Design

Healthy Active by Design

Improving the design of our cities, towns, streets and buildings makes it easier for Australians to lead heart-healthy lives....

Is salt bad for your heart?

Is salt bad for your heart?

Is salt bad for your heart?

Most Australians are eating more than the recommended amounts and this can cause health problems....

Smoking and your heart

Smoking and your heart

Smoking and your heart

Understand how smoking can impact your heart health. ...

Risk factors for women

Risk factors for women

Risk factors for women

In Australia, 90% of women have one risk factor for heart disease, and 50% have two or more. ...

Absolute CVD risk calculator

Absolute CVD risk calculator

The Absolute CVD risk calculator estimates the likelihood of having a heart attack or stroke in the next five years....

Heart failure resources for patients

Heart failure resources for patients

Educate your patients on everything they need to know about heart failure and managing their condition. ...

The one that took Jan’s breath away

The one that took Jan’s breath away

The one that took Jan’s breath away

Open heart surgery to treat damaged heart valves has improved Jan's overall health....

Our research stories

Our research stories

Our research stories

We fund amazing researchers who have important stories to tell...

Donate online by 30 June, to claim your gift on your upcoming tax return.

Donate online by 30 June, to claim your gift on your upcoming tax return.

Donate online by 30 June, to claim your gift on your upcoming tax return.

Your donation today is vital in changing the future for families like Kylie’s....

Long-term recovery after a heart attack

Long-term recovery after a heart attack

Long-term recovery after a heart attack

Information to help you adjust to what could be the 'new normal'...

What is a heart attack?

What is a heart attack?

What is a heart attack?

The most common cause of a heart attack is coronary heart disease....

Key Statistics: Coronary Heart Disease

Key Statistics: Coronary Heart Disease

After being treated for atrial fibrillation, Boyd is now back on track

After being treated for atrial fibrillation, Boyd is now back on track

After being treated for atrial fibrillation, Boyd is now back on track

Running has been an important part of Boyd's life, so imagine his shock when a heart condition he had never heard of threatened to put a stop to it. ...

Vegetarian recipes

Vegetarian recipes

Vegetarian recipes

Search through our vegetarian recipes...

Heart Health Network

Heart Health Network

Heart Health Network

Heart Health Network is the Heart Foundation’s newsletter for health professionals delivered to your inbox once a month....

Fit, active and healthy – Sharon wasn’t expecting a heart attack

Fit, active and healthy – Sharon wasn’t expecting a heart attack

Fit, active and healthy – Sharon wasn’t expecting a heart attack

Fit, active and healthy, Sharon wasn’t expecting a heart attack. However, after experiencing a ‘widow maker’, she counts herself lucky....

Key Statistics: Risk factors for heart disease

Key Statistics: Risk factors for heart disease