Question: What causes chest pain during pregnancy?
Physiologic changes during pregnancy affect the heart, blood vessels, brain, kidneys and the hematologic system. The respiratory system is also affected by pregnancy resulting in breathing changes and chest pain.
Though chest pain occurs more in the second and third trimester of pregnancy, it could occur at any time depending on the cause.
The truth is, chest discomfort during pregnancy happens for many reasons and most likely it is not a serious concern.
In some women, it happens because of the chest compression by the growing baby. Your chest consists of different organs, including the heart and lungs. As your womb grows, it forces your diaphragm against your chest causing pain.
Other non-serious causes of chest pain during pregnancy are long-term stress, pregnancy hormones, and resulting pain from breast enlargement that happen during pregnancy.
Having said that, it is important you are able to know when pain is getting worse. If you feel excruciating chest pain that makes it difficult to breathe, it is vital you see a doctor right away.
Serious causes of chest pain are infections (pneumonia), heart diseases, bronchial asthma, pulmonary embolism, heart attack, direct injury to your chest wall, Acid reflux, and high blood pressure.
If you think your pain is persistent and affects your daily activity, you must see your doctor quickly. Here are five questions you must prepare to answer during your visit
- Do you feel pain in the upper or lower part of your chest?
- Is chest pain in the middle, right or left side of the chest wall?
- Is pain sharp, dull, or burning?
- Does pain get worse on while lying down or at night?
- Does chest pain start after eating?
This article explains the causes of chest pain during pregnancy and simple lifestyle modifications that will make you feel better.
What causes chest pain during pregnancy?
Like already mentioned, chest pain happens due to physiological changes during pregnancy. Here are the reasons why they occur
1. Effect of progesterone hormone
Immediately after getting pregnant, there is a progesterone surge. This hormone can cause changes to your lower esophageal splinter and result in Acid reflux.
The lower esophageal sphincter is at the inferior end of the esophagus, an 8 inches muscular tube that conveys food from your mouth to your stomach.
During pregnancy, progesterone relaxes the esophageal sphincter resulting in upward movement of stomach contents into the esophagus.
This can result in the irritation and inflammation of the esophagus resulting in a burning sensation (Heart pain) in the lower part of the chest and the upper abdomen.
Pregnant women will experience this type of chest pain at night, after eating or when lying down.
2. Expanding chest wall
Another reason you may feel chest discomfort while pregnant is the pressure effect of your baby against the thoracic cavity.
Between your chest wall and abdomen is the diaphragm. As your baby grows, it compresses on the diaphragm and chest wall reducing the chest ability to expand. This pain may be felt on both sides, center, or on the left or right side.
If you feel symptoms are getting worse, talk to your doctor for help.
3. You are stressed up
It is normal for pregnant women to worry easily for the well being of their baby. if you get worked up emotionally or physically, it can have an impact on your health
It is crucial you relieve yourself of stress. Talk to your doctor for help.
4 Infection affecting the lungs
Lobar pneumonia or lungs infections is a common cause of chest pain. During pregnancy, your natural immune protection drops increasing your risk of a chest infection.
If you have pneumonia during pregnancy, you can expect to have chest pain. Other symptoms of pneumonia are vomiting, fever, chills, difficulty in breathing (or breathing faster than usual), and body weakness.
If you already have these symptoms, it is likely you have a chest infection. So, see a doctor.
Blood test, sputum test or an x-ray may be requested by your doctor to make the diagnosis. If you have pneumonia and chest pain, painkillers and antibiotics will be prescribed.
5. You probably have a heart attack
A heart attack is a common cause of chest pain in men and women. If you are pregnant and have a sharp pain in the middle of the chest or left side, it could be a heart attack. More so, if pain radiates to back, neck, jaw, and you find it difficult to breathe, then you need urgent help
During pregnancy, it is more likely to develop a heart attack compared to non-pregnant women. However, the chances are slim. So, don’t panic. Only 1 in 16,000 women will develop a heart attack during pregnancy.
Therefore, if you have central chest pain while pregnant, it is most likely due to other causes rather than a heart attack. It best you see your doctor.
6. Asthmatic attack
Bronchial asthma is a long-term condition that causes chest tightness, pain, and difficulty in breathing.
If you’ve been diagnosed with asthma before getting pregnant, then its possible you will experience an attack while pregnant.
Here’s the thing; Bronchial asthma may get worse or improve during pregnancy; Women who had severe attacks before pregnancy may experience severe symptoms during pregnancy.
Trigger factors vary among women, but commonly chest pain and tightness are triggered by the flu, cold, allergies, cigarette smoke, exercise, perfumes sprays, dust and emotional upset.
If you have asthma during pregnancy, you can have chest pain. See your doctor.
7. Hypertension complication (preeclampsia)
During pregnancy, it is possible to develop new-onset high blood pressure after the 20th week. This results from placental changes and its more likely to occur in first-time moms, twin pregnancies, and women who get pregnant after 40 years.
In severe cases of high blood pressure in pregnancy, you may experience chest pain due to the accumulation of fluid in your chest.
Other symptoms of severe preeclampsia are headaches, upper abdominal discomfort, vomiting, and convulsion.
How to stop chest pain while pregnant
If you have mild or severe chest pain, there are some simple tips to follow and improve your symptoms. If pain persists, see your healthcare provider for help.
- Don’t eat too late before going to bed
- Break your meals and eat small portions at intervals
- Always lie on your sides
- Avoid going to bed minutes after eating
- Reduce your stress level or see a counselor for help
- Avoid smoking, caffeinated drinks, and fatty foods
- If you are asthmatic, stay away from trigger factor (perfumes, dust. cold, etc)
- Elevate your head while you sleep. A single pillow will be okay to improve symptoms
- Consult your doctor for expert care
When to see a doctor?
If you develop any of the below-listed symptoms, quickly see your doctor.
- High body temperature (fever)
- Chest pain
- Severe wheezing and chest tightness
- A cough
- Difficulting in breathing
- Abdominal pain
- Decreased movement of your baby
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What causes chest pain during pregnancy while lying down?
Chest pain while lying down happens because of Gastroesophageal reflux disease that irritates the esophageal lining. This can be prevented by avoiding late night eating, reducing stress, and waiting a while after eating before lying down.
What causes upper back and chest pain during pregnancy?
Chest pain may radiate to other parts of your body, including the back. Heart attack, peptic ulcer disease, Acid reflux, direct chest trauma and round ligament stretching can cause this type of pain.