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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Cardiac Signs & Symptoms During Pregnancy

Symptoms may occur during pregnancies that are often associated with cardiac disease; however, these symptoms may be normal. These symptoms include fatigue, fainting, chest pain, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing while sleeping, and palpitations. Fainting may occur due to blood pressure and volume changes in pregnancy. Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing while lying down may be due to the mechanical effect of the enlarging uterus as pregnancy progresses. Palpitations, or an awareness of the heartbeat, may occur because the diaphragm shifts up in the chest during pregnancy, causing the heart to sit higher in the chest. Any of these symptoms occurring at rest may be serious and due to underlying significant heart disease and should be further evaluated.

Although a heart murmur (changes within the sounds of the heart) and ankle swelling may be associated with heart disease, these two symptoms also may occur during a normal pregnancy. Nearly 90 percent of pregnant women develop a heart murmur, which may be due to the increased volume of blood flowing through the heart during pregnancy. Pregnant women may develop underlying irregularities of the heartbeat that may be perfectly normal and can only be distinguished by specific cardiac testing. In addition, it is quite common that women develop swelling of their ankles and feet during pregnancy and this may not be due to underlying heart disease.


Heart Disease and Pregnancy Program
1-866-662-8467 (toll free)

Information line
312-MYHEART (694-3278)

Last UpdateNovember 23, 2012

Referrals &

To obtain a referral or schedule
an appointment:

Northwestern Memorial:

Northwestern Lake Forest:
847-LF-HEART (534-3278)

Northwestern Grayslake:
847-LF-HEART (534-3278)

Glenview Outpatient Center:

847-724-GLEN (4536)