Many pregnant people 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; in fact, it’s a common symptom of pregnancy. As it is a common occurrence, chest pain is typically not a cause for concern.
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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.
Stress and anxiety
Worry and stress are common elements of pregnancy, but too much can lead to chest pain. Anxiety also is a common source of tightness in the chest and can be brought about by the changes of pregnancy.
Whether it’s your first child or your fourth, 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 also can cause chest pain.
Your expanding uterus can put pressure on your diaphragm. Your breasts become larger, and your rib cage widens. Both of these changes can 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 is chest pain during pregnancy the most common?
The body changes throughout the first and second trimesters to help the baby grow, and throughout the third trimester to prepare for the birthing process. Because the body is adapting to pregnancy the entire journey, it’s common to experience chest pain at any point in your pregnancy.
When to Seek Help for Chest Pain
Although it’s rare, chest pain can be a sign of a more serious problem, including:
- Blood clot – a partial or complete block of the blood flow in a blood vessel.
- Heart attack – a lack of blood flow to the heart.
- Abnormal heart rhythms – too high, too low, or erratic heart rate.
- Tearing of the arteries near the heart – overexertion of the heart.
- Heart valve problems – blockage of the valves to the heart.
Heart disease and congenital heart problems are increasingly common in pregnant women. Those with obesity and who smoke also are at higher risk for serious heart problems during pregnancy.
Signs of a heart problem include chest pain with:
- Trouble breathing
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.
Editor's Note: This video was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .
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About UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital
For more than a century, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital has provided high-quality medical care to women at all stages of life. UPMC Magee is long-renowned for its services to women and babies but also offers a wide range of care to men as well. Our patient-first approach ensures you and your loved ones get the care you need. Nearly 10,000 babies are born each year at Magee, and our NICU is one of the largest in the country. Our network of care – from imaging centers to hospital services – provides care throughout Pennsylvania and Maryland, giving you a chance to get the expert care you need close to home. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognizes UPMC Magee as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, and the Magee-Womens Research Institute is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology.