If you have atrial fibrillation, the most common type of arrhythmia or irregular heart beat, and are pregnant or planning to have a child, you may wonder how afib affects pregnancy. Let’s first start by saying that every year thousands of women with atrial fibrillation deliver healthy babies.
Prior to and during your pregnancy you’ll want to work closely with your cardiologist to make sure your heart medications are OK for pregnancy and so that you know what signs to watch out for.
Planning Your Pregnancy
It’s safe to get pregnant when you have AFib, but you might have extra doctor visits once you’re expecting, to help prevent complications.
Something to consider is the medications that you are taking. Medications such as blood thinners and medications to slow the heart down can harm the baby’s development in the first trimester. If you stop taking them before you’re pregnant, it can reduce or mitigate that risk. But you’ll need to work with your cardiologist to do that.
Pregnancy and your heart
When you become pregnant, your body produces more blood than usual (up to 50% more) and changes the flow of blood to direct more blood to the uterus. The body also makes extra hormones that can change how organs, including your heart, and blood vessels work. In turn your heart rate increases.
Many healthy pregnant women experience heart palpitations and flutters. If you already have AFib, your burden of AF may increase during pregnancy. Pregnancy can also be when AFib first starts. This can usually be diagnosed during the third trimester.
AFib During and After Giving Birth
When you are nearing the end of your pregnancy, your doctor might change your medications so that you are not taking any blood thinners before or during labour and delivery.
Doctors will closely monitor your heart during labor to make sure the stress of giving birth doesn’t trigger AFib or another heart rhythm problem.
Whilst you can begin taking blood thinning medicines again after birth, it may be necessary to adjust your medication plan if you plan to breastfeed your baby.
When to Call Your Doctor
It’s important that you discuss your plans to become pregnant with your physician to ensure that you are taking the best care of your heart. Call your doctor if you are planning to or are already pregnant.
If you have AFib and are pregnant, you should watch for signs of blood clots, including a fast heartbeat, lightheadedness, chest pain or tightness or sudden trouble speaking or seeing. You should also call your doctor if you have signs of a new or worsening arrhythmia.
- Heart palpitations, rapid heartbeats, or fluttering or pounding in your chest
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Fainting or near-fainting spells
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain