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.
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 can occur.
But 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, 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 may occur in pregnancy and be benign, 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 can also be 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 typically increases between 20% and 45% but in some can increase by 100%.
But while cardiac output (the amount of work your heart is doing) does increase during pregnancy, this doesn’t directly correlate with chest pain.
So increased blood volume being the cause of chest pain while pregnant isn’t the whole story.
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.
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 rare cause of chest pain in pregnancy, but very serious.
Moms with pre-existing heart conditions will need special follow-up during their pregnancies.
Occasionally, chest pain can be a cause of a pregnancy or postpartum form of heart disease known as cardiomyopathy of pregnancy.
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 possible to experience shortness of breath 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, also known as dyspnea of pregnancy.
This happens for lots of the same reasons as chest pain itself.
As your baby grows, there’s more pressure on and less space for your internal organs, which makes normal breathing feel labored.
Add in some physiologic changes to your lungs, and you’ve got shortness of breath.
But if your shortness of breath 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 usually occurs just below the chest and may be 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 breastbone).
It can also be felt on your right-hand side under your rib cage.
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?
Some chest pain such as heartburn or pain due to fetal positioning or size, which, while uncomfortable, is not generally cause for alarm 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 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.