Here’s the 411 on chest pain while pregnant. Read on to find out what causes it, what it feels like, and when you should get medical help.
There’s no doubt — chest pain while pregnant can be extremely scary.
Even early in pregnancy, you might already be used to some of the more notorious pregnancy symptoms.
Seemingly unending nausea and extreme tiredness?
Yep, there’s a lot going on.
But if you suddenly experience pain in your chest, this might feel like a different matter.
Don’t worry, mama.
We’ve got you.
We’ll explain the causes, what’s “normal,” and when to get help.
In this article: 📝
- Is chest pain during pregnancy normal?
- What causes chest pain while pregnant?
- What causes chest pain when breathing while pregnant?
- What is preeclampsia chest pain like?
- When should I worry about chest pain during pregnancy?
Is chest pain during pregnancy normal?
It’s not one of the more discussed pregnancy symptoms, but yes, chest pain during pregnancy is common.
It’s usually reasonably mild and often accompanied by a “fluttering” feeling.
Generally, the pain won’t last longer than a few seconds.
This symptom is most common in the second and third trimesters.
That being said, it’s essential to know that severe chest pain during pregnancy is not normal.
If you are experiencing intense pain or pain that keeps coming back and lasts more than a few moments, it’s time to get medical attention.
If accompanied by shortness of breath and nausea, chest pain can be a sign of blood clots in the lung.
Chest pain that moves to your left arm or jaw (with dizziness, vision changes, nausea, or sweating) can also indicate heart attacks.
So, while chest pain can be a common pregnancy experience, there are times when it can indicate something more serious.
What causes chest pain while pregnant?
Chest pain while pregnant is caused by a whole host of things.
Your hormones are shifting, your body is changing, and you’ll feel the effects in lots of different ways.
Pressure from your growing little one (they’re taking-up space fast!) and heartburn (caused by acid reflux) are two of the most common causes.
But it’s also associated with more serious conditions like high blood pressure, preeclampsia, and heart attacks.
Here are a few possible causes:
Increased blood volume
During pregnancy, blood volume increases between 20% and an incredible 100%.
It’s no surprise your heart has to work harder as a result, which might cause occasional, mild chest pain.
In pregnancy, progesterone levels rise.
This causes your esophageal sphincter (which forms a barrier with your stomach) to relax.
The result is acid reflux and heartburn.
(Yep, that’s that unpleasant burning sensation you may get after eating.)
Your growing baby
As your baby grows, your uterus also expands.
This increases pressure on other organs, such as your lungs and stomach.
In turn, this causes chest pain, mainly in the second and third trimesters when your bump is biggest.
Preeclampsia is a hypertension (high blood pressure) disorder that occurs in pregnancy.
We’ll look at preeclampsia chest pain in more detail, but if you’re getting chest pain accompanied by other symptoms such as shoulder pain, headaches, and swelling — it’s time to talk to your doctor.
This is a rarer cause of chest pain, but very serious.
Because the blood volume in your body increases, your heart rate also quickens, creating strain and a higher risk of heart attacks.
Learn how to spot the signs, and get medical help if you’re concerned.
What causes chest pain when breathing while pregnant?
It’s also common to experience chest pain when breathing while you’re pregnant.
As if worrying chest pains weren’t enough, throwing shortness of breath into the mix can really make your stress levels rise.
But the truth is around 70% of pregnant people experience shortness of breath.
This happens for lots of the same reasons as chest pain itself.
As your baby grows, there’s more pressure and less space for your internal organs, which makes normal breathing feel labored.
But if pain when breathing is severe or long-lasting, it’s time to get help.
It could be a sign of more serious conditions like heart attacks or blood clots.
What is preeclampsia chest pain like?
Preeclampsia chest pain is hard to spot on its own.
It’s a serious condition that’s problematic because many signs resemble the “normal” effects of pregnancy.
Lots of pregnant people with preeclampsia don’t even feel sick.
If you experience sharp chest pain while pregnant, let your healthcare team know.
This is a common symptom of preeclampsia.
As part of this, watch out for “epigastric pain” (that’s pain in your upper abdomen, just below the ribs).
It’s usually felt on your right-hand side.
This might feel a bit like indigestion for some.
But others report sharper “stabbing” pains, so it really is different for everyone.
You may not be able to spot this symptom on your own, but high blood pressure is one of the most critical signs of preeclampsia.
Your nurse or doctor will check this at your pregnancy appointments.
They’ll also test your urine for protein, which is the other diagnostic check.
More signs of preeclampsia include:
- Severe headaches
- Blurred vision or seeing flashing lights
- Sudden swelling in the feet, hands, ankles, and face
If you get any of these at any point in your pregnancy, reach out to a medical professional.
When should I worry about chest pain during pregnancy?
Most mild chest pain shouldn’t be cause for concern during pregnancy.
It undoubtedly feels incredibly unnerving, though.
So take a deep breath, mama, make sure to rest as much as possible, and never feel bad about contacting your healthcare team.
Trust your gut.
You know your body, and you’ll know when chest pain is probably OK and when something doesn’t feel right.
As magical as pregnancy is, it can also be pretty scary at times.
You don’t have to do it alone.
Reach out to your Peanut community.
We’re here for you.