Any kind of chest pain is frightening, especially when it occurs during pregnancy.
“Not every pregnant woman will experience chest pain. But if you do, it may happen during the early months of pregnancy or later,” says Dr. Anita Sabherwal Anand, Consultant Obstetrician-Gynecologist at Sitaram Bhartia Hospital in South Delhi.
Could tightness in the chest be a symptom of pregnancy?
Some women experience soreness around the breasts, tightness and chest pain, which may be early signs of pregnancy.
Is it normal to have chest pains during pregnancy?
Yes. Your body is undergoing many changes simultaneously, some of which may cause chest pain. In most situations, pain in the chest region may not be serious.
Here are five main reasons you may be experiencing chest pain during pregnancy.
Heartburn and indigestion
Heartburn occurs when a valve that connects the esophagus to the stomach loosens, allowing the acid from the stomach to escape into the throat. This is why you feel a burning sensation in your throat. The valve usually remains closed except to allow food to pass into the stomach. Certain citrusy foods and chocolate may relax the valve, resulting in heart burn.
“You may experience heartburn along with indigestion (in the form of bloating or abdominal discomfort), that are caused by spicy and fried foods.”
Growing breast size
As your breasts grow bigger in preparation to nourish your little one, either only your breasts will hurt or your chest in general may hurt for a while. It is common for breasts to hurt in the first and third trimesters.
Pregnant women may feel this as pain under the bra line during pregnancy or as chest pain around 38 weeks.
Expanding rib cage
Your rib cage expands during the last three months of pregnancy. When this happens the cartilage that joins the rib to the sternum (breastbone) also enlarges. This may put pressure on the chest, resulting in pain.
Pre-existing conditions such as Asthma or conditions that you develop during pregnancy such as a cold, cough or pneumonia may also cause chest pain.
“You should contact a doctor if you have pneumonia and your chest hurts.”
Existing risk factors
Women who have a prior history of heart disease or are overweight or have an immediate family member suffering from varicose veins, blood clot or a stroke shouldn’t dismiss any instance of chest pain.
“You may be at a higher risk of developing heart problems, and so you should contact your doctor immediately.”
Can you have a heart attack while pregnant?
Data suggests that it is possible to have a myocardial infarction or heart attack while pregnant although it is rare. According to the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, cardiovascular disease is now the leading cause (26.5%) of death in pregnancy and the postpartum period.
The risk of myocardial infarction increases in pregnancy, more so in women older than 40 years as compared to women younger than 20 years.
How do I know if my chest pain during pregnancy is serious?
Keep an eye out for these signals that may indicate an urgent need of medical help.
Chest pain accompanied by any of these symptoms:
- intense pain upon coughing
- blurred vision
If you think you or a loved one is experiencing these symptoms, contact your doctor and seek emergency care.
How Will My Chest Pain be Treated?
“The course of treatment depends entirely on the cause behind your symptoms,” explains Dr. Anita.
For example, chest pain along with swelling in the legs or feet may indicate preeclampsia. Excessive vomiting may represent severe morning sickness.
“Your doctor will ask about symptoms and may advise some tests. You will be treated depending on the diagnosis made.”
When Can Chest Pain during Pregnancy Be Treated at Home
Mild episodes of chest pain resulting from heartburn, indigestion or physical changes can be brought under control by
- Spacing out your meals and eating smaller quantities
- Avoiding spicy foods that may irritate your stomach and throat
- Eating 2-3 hours before you go to sleep and
- Engaging in physical activity and meditation to de-stress
“If symptoms of chest pain during pregnancy, breathlessness and uneasiness remain even when you are lying down, it would be wiser to consult a doctor than to delay getting help,” concludes Dr. Anita.
You may like to read:
- Go Nuts for a Healthy Heart!
- Anaemia in Pregnancy: What You Must Know To Treat It Soon
- What You Need to Know about Your Pregnancy Diet Chart (Second & Third Trimester)
This article has been written with inputs from Dr. Anita Sabherwal Anand in 2020. Dr. Anita is an experienced obstetrician-gynecologist with 20+ years of experience. She is skilled at helping both high-risk and low-risk pregnant women through the antenatal and postnatal period.
Dr. Anita Sabherwal Anand
DNB Secondary (Obstetrics & Gynaecology), National Board of Medical Education, New Delhi (1999), MD (Obstetrics & Gynaecology), Lady Hardinge Medical College, University of Delhi (1997), MBBS, Lady Hardinge Medical College, University of Delhi (1992)