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.

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....

Cardiovascular disease risk factors and heart attack warning signs in women

Cardiovascular disease risk factors and heart attack warning signs in women

Cardiovascular disease risk factors and heart attack warning signs in women

Information for healthcare professionals and the public on cardiovascular disease risk factors and warning signs affecting women. ...

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....

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. ...

Together, we can change the future of heart disease

Together, we can change the future of heart disease

Together, we can change the future of heart disease

The power of your ongoing support can help save lives and keep more families together. Help us continue to fund promising heart research projects by donating today. ...

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Heart Week 2022

Heart Week 2022

Heart Week 2022

With one Australian having a heart attack or stroke every 4 minutes, you have the power to change this statistic. ...

Health Professional Tools

Health Professional Tools

Health Professional Tools

Guidelines, publications and support for the health professional community....

Time to book a Heart Health Check?

Time to book a Heart Health Check?

Time to book a Heart Health Check?

If you're 45 and over, or 30 and over if you're of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, you should book your Heart Health Check today...

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....

Chicken recipes

Chicken recipes

Chicken recipes

Find heart healthy chicken recipes....

Summer Salads Recipe Booklet

Summer Salads Recipe Booklet

Summer Salads Recipe Booklet

From quick and healthy weeknight options, to show-stopping share-plates sure to impress any barbecue guests this summer. Get your free copy now...

Treating cardiovascular dysfunction and insulin resistance with personalised antioxidant treatment

Treating cardiovascular dysfunction and insulin resistance with personalised antioxidant treatment

Dr Lewan Parker, Institution: Deakin University...

Ranch burger bowls

Ranch burger bowls

Ranch burger bowls

20 minutes
Serves 2

Heart Week

Heart Week

Women and heart disease

Women and heart disease

Women and heart disease

Information on women and heart disease for consumers....

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....

Physical activity after a heart attack

Physical activity after a heart attack

Physical activity after a heart attack

Discover what you need to know about being active after a heart attack....

Mexican vegetarian pizza

Mexican vegetarian pizza

Mexican vegetarian pizza

10 minutes
Serves 2 (1 pizza per serve)

Rheumatic heart disease vaccines

Rheumatic heart disease vaccines

Dr Yara-Natalie Abo, Institution: Murdoch Children's Research Institute...

Keeping your heart healthy

Keeping your heart healthy

Keeping your heart healthy

Keeping your heart healthy is something you can work on every day. ...

Key Statistics: Risk Factors For Cardiovascular Disease

Key Statistics: Risk Factors For Cardiovascular Disease

Returning to work after a heart attack

Returning to work after a heart attack

Returning to work after a heart attack

Discover how to plan for your return to work....

Mexican vegetarian pizza

Mexican vegetarian pizza

Mexican vegetarian pizza

10 minutes
Serves 4 (1 pizza per serve)

Heart Bypass Surgery

Heart Bypass Surgery

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

National Heart Health Check Recall Program

National Heart Health Check Recall Program

National Heart Health Check Recall Program

Known as Text to Detect, this will be the largest quality improvement program of its kind in Australian primary care....

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....

Baking recipes

Baking recipes

Baking recipes

Find heart healthy baking recipes ...

Chilli and garlic prawn spaghetti

Chilli and garlic prawn spaghetti

Chilli and garlic prawn spaghetti

15 minutes
Serves 2

Heart Matters

Heart Matters

Heart Matters

A community-based project delivering heart health education in Victorian communities at high risk of heart attack...

Lifestyle management

Lifestyle management

Lifestyle advice and referral programs to help reduce CVD risk...

Protein and heart health

Protein and heart health

Protein and heart health

What are the best sources of protein when it come to your heart health...

The Heart Foundation Research Program

The Heart Foundation Research Program

The Heart Foundation Research Program

We are Australia’s biggest non-government funder of world-class research into heart health. Learn more about our high impact research. ...

What is a healthy body weight?

What is a healthy body weight?

What is a healthy body weight?

Find out what a healthy body weight is and the steps you can take to achieve it. ...