Chest pain during and after pregnancy can be a serious indication of a life-threatening problem. Any chest pain during pregnancy or the postpartum period must be checked as quickly as possible to prevent and treat potential complications.
When to seek help for chest pain during pregnancy and postbirth
Heart disease and congenital heart problems are increasingly common in pregnant women. Rarely, chest pain during pregnancy and postbirth can be signs of a more serious problem which can be life-threatening. These serious issues include a heart attack, a clot in the lung or other lung issues, an abnormal heart rhythm, tearing of the arteries near the heart, or heart valve problems.
You should immediately call your doctor if you have chest pain with:
- Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
- A swollen leg which could indicate a clot
Minor causes of chest pain during pregnancy and postpartum
Minor causes of chest pain are the most common causes of chest pain during pregnancy and postbirth, but sometimes cannot be clearly enough distinguished from more severe causes. Minor causes include stress, indigestion, heartburn, and body changes associated with pregnancy, birth, and postbirth changes.
Heartburn and indigestion
Heartburn, or acid reflux, is fairly common in pregnancy and postbirth. 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 and esophagus.
The pain can sometimes feel similar to heart attack symptoms, but it starts in the lower breastbone and moves upward. Gas can also cause sharp pain, while heartburn is more of a burning or warming pain and can lead to a burning sensation. Certain foods like chocolate, tomatoes, oranges, and mint are common culprits of heartburn. The good news is, these symptoms usually resolve after your baby is born.
Body changes during pregnancy
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.