During your pregnancy, it\u2019s only natural to focus on your baby\u2019s health and development. But it\u2019s also important to think about your own health \u2014 especially your heart health. Pregnancy and heart health are closely connected; what happens during this time can affect your risk for heart disease later in life.\nPregnancy and Heart Health\nWhen you\u2019re pregnant, your heart works harder. Your blood volume increases to support your growing baby, so your heart pumps faster to circulate the blood throughout your body, raising your heart rate. When you go into labor, your blood pressure will fluctuate. It may even take a few weeks after giving birth for your heart rate and blood pressure to return to normal.\nAs your unborn baby grows and puts pressure on your diaphragm, you may experience mild chest pains, shortness of breath, and even heart palpitations. These symptoms are normal and rarely a problem. It\u2019s unusual for women to have heart problems during childbearing years, but it can happen. Be sure to talk with your doctor about any concerns.\nPregnancy and Heart Disease Risk\nWhile heart disease is more common in older women, there seems to be a link between heart-related conditions during pregnancy and heart disease risk later in life. If you have been diagnosed with pregnancy-induced hypertension (preeclampsia) or gestational diabetes, you have a greater risk of developing heart disease in midlife. If you have any of these conditions, talk to your doctor about your risk for heart disease after pregnancy and learn what you can do to decrease or control your risk factors.\nHow to Protect Your Heart During and After Pregnancy\nFollowing a healthy diet and staying active are the top two ways to protect your heart. Stay active as much as you\u2019re able during pregnancy, even if you can manage only a few 10-minute walks each day. Eat regular meals, take your prenatal vitamins consistently, and follow a heart-healthy diet that includes:\n\nPlenty of whole fruits and vegetables\nLean meats like chicken, turkey, and fish\nBeans\nLimited saturated fat and red meats\nUnsaturated fats from nuts, seeds, oils, and avocado\nLimited sodium\nWhole grains\nLow-fat dairy\n\nSince health choices during pregnancy can affect your heart health later in life, it\u2019s important to start prevention efforts early. Your obstetrician or midwife can offer guidelines on diet and exercise throughout your pregnancy. If you\u2019re struggling or feel you need a more personalized, detailed plan \u2014before, during, or after pregnancy \u2014 consider talking to a nutritionist or dietitian. A few small lifestyle changes can protect your heart for years to come.