I'll never forget when I began to suspect I might be pregnant for the third time. I was checking email, sipping my daily coffee, and savoring the relaxing morning. But about halfway through my cup of coffee, I realized my heart was racing. Caffeine had never had that effect on me before and although I thought there was no way I could be pregnant (ha), I began to wonder. A week later I had a positive test. I thought back to the day my heart rate shot up and worried. How high can your heart rate go when you're pregnant and still be safe? According to one professional, it can vary with each trimester.
Maternal heart rate (MHR) increases as the pregnancy progresses, Certified Nurse Midwife Denise Castellanos tells Romper, to meet the needs of the developing baby. As you might then expect, the height of a woman's MHR is in the third trimester. After her delivery of the baby, her rate will return to its normal baseline during the postpartum period. But since every woman has a resting heart rate that is unique to her own body, there is not a single number that can be the goal for everyone during pregnancy. Multiple gestation (twins, triplets, etc.) can also affect MHR.
There are other factors that may affect a pregnant woman's heart rate as well, Castellanos explains. These include exercise, hyperthermia (significantly increased body temperature), anxiety, postural changes, and caffeine. So while a little variance in heart rate is normal and not worrisome, there are some conditions that may demand a woman seek further medical evaluation. If a woman has a history of anemia, thyroid disorder, cardiovascular disorder, palpitations, asthma, or if she is on daily medications, her heart rate should be monitored closely by her provider.
Even if a woman has no such medical history, she should be aware that complications that arise during pregnancy such as fever, infection, dehydration, and bleeding can affect her MHR also.
How do you know when an incident of increased heart rate might be serious? Castellanos says to pay attention to two things: Your breath and your chest. "Underlying conditions or sudden onset of symptoms associated with shortness of breath or chest pain need immediate emergent medical attention," she advises.
For many pregnant women, an increased heart rate is most frequently a concern during exercise. While taking care of your body and building stamina for labor is certainly important, it's normal to wonder how much is too much. The recommendation of the OB-GYN community is that it's healthy for a pregnant woman to exercise as long as she can carry on a conversation while doing so. If you find you can't gab to your friend while you work out together, you need to take it down a notch.
In order to find your own ideal heart rate, Castellanos advises you discuss your medical history, physical fitness status, and gestational age with your care provider. The midwife encourages women to find their own resting heart rate baseline, pointing out that a healthy rate is considered to be between 60 to 100 beats per minute for an adult, with some variance depending on physical condition. Knowing your own body gives you a better awareness when things steer off course.
If your heart rate is accelerated during pregnancy, there's likely no reason to be alarmed. If you know you have medical complications, talk with your doctor about monitoring your MHR, but if you're simply noticing your heart racing during exercise or while drinking a little caffeine, some small adjustments will have you feeling better in no time. For your sake, I hope that doesn't mean giving up coffee.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.