Pregnancy is a very significant phase in a woman’s life. A mother goes through the immense struggle to deliver the bundle of joy. During the 9-month gestational period, a woman’s body goes through numerous changes which cause many side effects and discomfort. One such side effect which can cause much uneasiness is chest pain during pregnancy. The heavy feeling in the chest and hurting pain is caused due to many factors and changes happening in the body.
Let us understand chest pain during pregnancy in detail and some good home remedies to relieve it.
What is Chest Pain, and is it Common during Pregnancy?
Chest pain is a feeling of sharp pain, tightness, pressure, dull ache, burning sensation or a deep crushing pain between the upper abdomen and the neck, i.e. the chest area. Cardiac disease is the most common cause of chest pain, which calls for immediate medical attention. There are various non-cardiac causes too such as lung disease, shingles, heartburn etc. Pain in the chest is a very common side effect of pregnancy. It is caused due to various physiological changes happening in the body. Though these changes are not a matter of serious concern, chest pain during pregnancy does cause discomfort and uneasiness to the mother to be.
Causes of Chest Pain During Pregnancy:
Chest pain takes many forms depending on the cause. Pregnant women or garbhavati mahila usually has a slight ache, burning sensation or tightness due to acid reflux, stress and physiological changes. But not all chest pains are pregnancy-related. A more severe form of pain associated with breathlessness, jaw pain, numbness, dizziness, etc., must be responded with a doctor’s visit to know the underlying cause. Let us look at the various reasons for chest pain during pregnancy.
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1. Heartburn and Indigestion:
Most women experience indigestion and heartburn during pregnancy due to changes in hormonal levels and the pressure on the stomach by the growing baby. Symptoms include burning sensation, bloating, tightness and pressure in the chest, burping, acid reflux, stomach pain, nausea or vomiting. During the first trimester, progesterone hormone is responsible for acid reflux.
2. Mental Stress:
Pregnancy always causes feelings of anxiety, even if it is not a first time experience. Severe panic and stress can cause panic attacks with symptoms of chest pain, breathing difficulties, headaches, sweating, nausea etc.
3. Musculoskeletal Stress:
The growing baby puts a lot of pressure on the muscles and bones of the chest area, causing pain and soreness. The pressure also causes widening of the rib cage, giving breathlessness and ache.
4. Increase in Breast Size:
During the second or third trimester of pregnancy, woman’s breasts increase in size and change in shape. This causes much stress to the muscles and bones along the chest area, resulting in sore chest and shortness of breath.
5. Insufficient Expansion of Lungs:
Growing womb hinders the expansion of the lungs while breathing; this causes difficulty in breathing and a feeling of tightness in the chest.
Below are some causes that are due to health conditions which are not related to pregnancy but can affect pregnant women. A medical practitioner must treat these conditions.
6. Heart Attack:
Decreased blood flow to the heart muscles causes heart attack with symptoms of sudden and severe pain in the chest, breathlessness, sweating etc. It must be treated with immediate medical care.
7. Coronary Artery Disease:
Reduced blood flow to the heart due to clogging of arteries by bad cholesterol and fat causes CAD or angina. Women with this condition feel tightness and pain in the chest, along with fatigue, nausea, etc., especially after physical or emotional exertion.
This is a genetic condition where the heart muscles grow abnormally thick, causing restrictions in blood flow out of the heart. This causes bad chest pain, dizziness etc.
9. Valvular Heart Disease:
Damage to heart valves and their function causes many heart conditions that result in chest pain, breathing issues, dizziness etc.
Inflammation of the heart muscle is another cause of pain in the chest. It is mostly due to viral infections like Coxsackie B viruses, cytomegalovirus etc.
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Inflammation of the sac that surrounds the heart is caused mostly due to infections, heart surgery etc. This condition causes severe pain in the chest.
12. Lung Infections:
Lung infections like pneumonia and other viral and bacterial infections cause pain in the chest, fever, cough etc.
13. Collapsed Lung:
When a part of the lung collapse, mostly due to injury, it releases air into the chest cavity, causing chest pain, low blood pressure etc.
14. Pulmonary Embolism:
When a blood clot gets lodged in the lung, it causes severe pain the chest, breathing trouble etc.
Shingle is a disease caused by a virus called varicella-zoster. It causes sharp pain in the chest, rash and blisters on the chest area.
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Tips to Relieve Chest Pain during Pregnancy:
Let us look at some methods to control chest pain caused due to pregnancy,
- Stand or sit in a posture that allows easy and sufficient flow of oxygen to the lungs. Avoid postures that pressurize and restrict the lungs.
- Eat small but frequent meals to avoid heartburn and indigestion.
- Avoid sleeping immediately after meals as it may prevent healthy digestion and lead to bloating.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, spicy and fatty foods that may strain the liver and digestion.
- Consume foods rich in nutrients like iron, calcium and potassium. Prenatal supplements are a good way of ensuring you get essential vitamins and minerals.
- Practice stress relieving techniques like meditation and yoga.
- Eat healthy and balanced food made under hygienic conditions with fresh ingredients. Consume good portions of fruits, especially seasonal fruits.
- Exercise and yoga help ease many pregnancy related side effects. Prenatal yoga is found to support the development of the baby and the health of the mother.
- Always sleep on your left side. This helps in easing the pressure put by the uterus on the chest and blood vessels.
- Use a cushion to elevate the upper body while lying down. This eases breathing and lung muscles.
- Get enough rest to relax the muscles of the chest and body.
Home Remedies for Chest Pain during Pregnancy:
Pregnancy related chest pain can be managed with simple remedies and lifestyle changes. Let us look at some top home remedies and treatments,
- Drinking warm milk with honey is the best way of soothing the digestive system and easing heartburn and chest discomfort.
- Herbal teas like chamomile tea, ginger tea and fennel tea help in relieving bloating, acid reflux and heartburn.
- Drinking fresh coconut water every day not only provides essential minerals and salts but also provides relief from acidity and aids in digestion.
- Caraway seeds water is very helpful in relieving gas trapped in the chest and indigestion. You just have to boil two teaspoons of caraway seeds in water for 10 mins. Strain and drink. You can add some honey to enhance the taste.
- Soaked almonds are a good source of calcium, potassium, protein and dietary fibres. It helps in improving digestion and providing proper nutrition. Remember to eat them soaked overnight.
When to Call for Help?
Not all chest pains are pregnancy related. If you are facing the below symptoms or signs, you must take it seriously with an immediate visit to the doctor,
- Severe, stabbing pain on the left side of the chest along with cold sweats, vomiting, numbness in the arms, shoulder pain, breathlessness, dizziness, back pain.
- Sharp pain in the chest while coughing, sneezing or breathing.
- Severe pain in the chest with inflammation in the legs.
- Stabbing pain and tightness in the chest near the heart area at intervals, spreading to neck, jaw and back.
Most pregnancy related discomforts are relieved only when the baby is delivered. But with proper awareness, tips and home remedies, you can easily manage chest pain issue. Follow the above tips and remedies and share your experience below. Enjoy your pregnancy!
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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers:
Q1. Can Stress Cause Chest Pain During Pregnancy?
Ans: A little stress and anxiety are normal for everyone. But too much stress may lead to anxiety or panic attacks. During such attacks, a stress hormone called adrenaline is released into the bloodstream. This hormone causes various symptoms like chest pain, sweating, racing heart, breathlessness, giddiness, digestive issues etc. Sufficient rest and meditation help in relieving stress and anxiety very well.
Q2. Why are pregnant women at risk of peripartum cardiomyopathy?
Ans: During pregnancy, the heart must pump 50% more blood to provide nutrition and oxygen to the growing baby. This overwork and stress on the heart can weaken the heart muscles, especially when the woman is suffering from obesity, malnutrition, high blood pressure, diabetes etc. Consuming alcohol, smoking, poor nutrition, multiple pregnancies, some prenatal medicines also strain the heart. Weak heart muscles can cause heart enlargement and heart failure during or after pregnancy; this type of heart failure is called peripartum cardiomyopathy.
Q3. What is the Difference Between Chest Pain and Heart Burn During Pregnancy?
Ans: People generally associate chest pain with a heart attack. Chest pain due to heart disease or lung disease is usually severe and stabbing, along with symptoms like sweating, breathlessness, dizziness etc. Any severe pain in the chest must be given doctors attention. Pregnancy related chest pain is usually mild and easily manageable. Most pregnant women suffer from heartburn and bloating that causes chest tightness and burning sensation in the chest. Heartburn is caused due to acid reflux and excess acids in the stomach. This causes burning pain in the chest area, often in the lower chest area. It is usually experienced sometimes after having a meal. This kind of chest pain can be relieved through antacids or medications to aid digestion.