I am
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.

You might also be interested in

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)....

Heart Age Calculator

Heart Age Calculator

Heart Age Calculator

Could you be at risk of heart disease? Get your estimated heart age now....

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....

When doing nothing does harm

When doing nothing does harm

When doing nothing does harm

Women's Health Week guest blog written by National Heart Foundation of Australia Group CEO Adj Prof John G Kelly AM....

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. ...

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 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...

More Australians die of Heart Disease than any other cause.

More Australians die of Heart Disease than any other cause.

More Australians die of Heart Disease than any other cause.

And the heartache lasts a lifetime. But you can help the Heart Foundation fund life-saving research to keep more families together....

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Research Directory

Research Directory

Vegetarian lasagne

Vegetarian lasagne

Vegetarian lasagne

1 hour
Serves 6

The NSW Cardiac Rehabilitation Working Group

The NSW Cardiac Rehabilitation Working Group

Absolute CVD risk clinical guidelines

Absolute CVD risk clinical guidelines

The Absolute Cardiovascular Disease Risk (CVD) Guidelines helps healthcare professionals identify, prevent and manage a person's risk of developing CVD. ...

For professionals: Heart failure tools and resources

For professionals: Heart failure tools and resources

Resources for healthcare professionals on the management of patients with heart failure ...

10 steps to protect your heart health

10 steps to protect your heart health

10 steps to protect your heart health

Ready to help your heart keep on beating? Here are 10 important ways to reduce your risk of heart disease for a healthier life.  ...

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 ...

Feelings and emotions after a heart attack

Feelings and emotions after a heart attack

Feelings and emotions after a heart attack

This is a guide to how you might be feeling after a heart attack. ...

About the Lighthouse Hospital Project

About the Lighthouse Hospital Project

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in Australia, but the burden of disease disproportionately affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples....

Aiming high after a stroke

Aiming high after a stroke

Aiming high after a stroke

Sami Kennedy-Sim is an Olympic freestyle skier specialising in Ski Cross. ...

Baking recipes

Baking recipes

Baking recipes

Find heart healthy baking recipes ...

Green power smoothie

Green power smoothie

Green power smoothie

Healthy chicken fajitas

Healthy chicken fajitas

20 minutes
Serves 4

Australian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance

Australian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance

Alliance with chronic disease prevention stakeholders...

Heart Bypass Surgery

Heart Bypass Surgery

Coronary bypass surgery is a common procedure that can dramatically improve the health of your heart. ...

Permanent Pacemaker (PPM)

Permanent Pacemaker (PPM)

A small, battery-powered device that is fitted under the skin of your upper chest....

What's your BMI?

What's your BMI?

What's your BMI?

Are you within a healthy weight range for your height?...

Leaving a gift in your Will: A lasting legacy

Leaving a gift in your Will: A lasting legacy

Leaving a gift in your Will: A lasting legacy

One of the most powerful ways to help support a future without heart disease is to include a gift to the Heart Foundation in your Will...

Supporting Young Hearts Podcast

Supporting Young Hearts Podcast

Supporting Young Hearts Podcast

Supporting Young Hearts is a six-episode series interviewing young people with lived experience of heart conditions and talking through advice for supporting emotional health and well-being....

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....

Norm discovered he was at risk of a major heart attack just in the nick of time

Norm discovered he was at risk of a major heart attack just in the nick of time

Norm discovered he was at risk of a major heart attack just in the nick of time

Norm didn’t worry too much about his cholesterol problem – until an angiogram revealed he had an 80 per cent blockage in a major heart artery. ...

Q&A with Dr Jennifer Browne

Q&A with Dr Jennifer Browne

Food and Nutrition Policy for First Nations peoples – translating evidence into action...

Loaded veggie shepherds pie

Loaded veggie shepherds pie

Loaded veggie shepherds pie

1 hour
Serves Serves 4 (as a main meal)

Coronary Angiogram Test

Coronary Angiogram Test

This is a common test done to find out angina symptoms, or during or after a heart attack. ...

Meatloaf

Meatloaf

40-50 minutes
Serves 6

Philanthropic investments

Philanthropic investments

Philanthropic investments

Making philanthropic investments through the Heart Foundation can transform Australians’ health. ...

Fruit and nut muesli

Fruit and nut muesli

Fruit and nut muesli

Smart Heart Guidelines App

Smart Heart Guidelines App

Access to Australian heart disease guidelines is now free at your fingertips...