Chest Pain During Pregnancy: When to Worry

Many pregnant women find themselves fretting over every twinge, cramp, or discomfort. When is it normal, and when should you get help?

It’s not uncommon to experience chest pain when you’re pregnant, and it is typically not a cause for concern.

Find more information. Contact the UPMC Women’s Heart Program.

Minor Causes of Chest Pain During Pregnancy

Heartburn, indigestion, stress, and body changes are the most common causes of chest pain during pregnancy.

Heartburn and indigestion

Heartburn, or acid reflux, is fairly common in pregnancy. Foods that you were once able to eat freely now may cause you enough discomfort to disrupt your routine.

  • Indigestion refers to gas trapped in your stomach or chest.
  • The pain can sometimes feel similar to heart attack symptoms, but it starts in the lower breastbone and moves upward.
  • Gas can cause a sharp pain, while heartburn is more of a burning or warming pain and can lead to a burning sensation in the back of your throat.

To lessen these symptoms, eat smaller meals more frequently, remain sitting up a few hours after eating, and avoid foods that worsen the pain. Chocolate, tomatoes, oranges, and mint are common culprits of heartburn. The good news is, these symptoms usually resolve after your baby is born.

The connection between stress and chest pain

Worry and stress are common elements of pregnancy, but too much can lead to chest pain.

  • Whether it’s your first child or your third, you’re still facing a major life change. Look at possible causes of stress in your life and whether you can eliminate these factors.
  • If you struggle to lessen your stress or feel like you’re having trouble coping, consider talking to a counselor and taking steps to relax.

Body changes during pregnancy

Your body is growing and adjusting throughout pregnancy, and some of these changes can also cause pain in your chest.

  • Your expanding uterus can put pressure on your diaphragm. Your breasts become larger, and your rib cage widens. Both of these changes cause pressure and, possibly, pain along with shortness of breath.
  • Try lying on your left side, which takes the pressure off major blood vessels.
  • Sometimes, though, pregnancy is just uncomfortable, and there’s little you can do but hang in there until your baby is ready to be born.

When to Seek Help for Chest Pain

Although it’s rare, chest pain can be a sign of a more serious problem, including a blood clot, heart attack, abnormal heart rhythms, tearing of the arteries near the heart, or heart valve problems.

Heart disease and congenital heart problems are increasingly common in pregnant women. Women who are obese or smoke are at higher risk for serious heart problems during pregnancy. Signs of a heart problem include chest pain with:

  • Dizziness
  • Numbness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Weakness

If you have any of these symptoms, call your doctor right away. A blood clot in the leg, such as deep vein thrombosis, causes swelling and warmth at the clot. This can be a serious problem.

Usually, chest pain is uncomfortable but not a cause for alarm. Talk with your doctor about any pain you have throughout your pregnancy just to be sure. Seek care today by visiting the Magee-Women’s Hospital of UPMC.