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Chest Pain during Pregnancy

Pregnant women have a risk of sharp and stabbing pain in the chest. This can be due to various causes. Below is a list of reasons why women experience chest pain during pregnancy along with the ways to treat it.
HerHaleness Staff
Last Updated: Feb 7, 2018
Pregnancy Portrait
Pregnancy brings about various physiological changes in a woman. As exciting as it is for a woman, pregnancy is accompanied by various aches and pains which one may not experience otherwise. Along with abdominal pain and muscle cramps, women often experience chest pain. Although it is normal, it can be very discomforting. This kind of pain is usually not harmful and the symptoms disappear within a few days. However, if the symptoms persist for more than a week, it is advisable to consult a doctor. There can be numerous causes behind this condition. Given below is a list of them.
  • Cause
During pregnancy, the growing size of the uterus puts pressure on the stomach. Plus, the hormones released during pregnancy relax the sphincter (a ring-like muscle that encircles the openings and passages of the body). This action slows down the digestion process and allows the acid to rise up the sphincter. This causes problems like, indigestion, heartburn, constipation, and gas, which, in turn, causes a burning sensation in the chest.
  • Treatment
This is a transient condition and normally resolves on its own in a couple of hours, and is rarely a persistent problem to deal with. However, the best option for dealing with such a condition is to prevent the occurrence of gas by avoiding foods that cause gas.
Nasal Congestion
  • Cause
Nasal congestion is another reason why one may experience chest pain. Pregnant women produce high levels of estrogen and progesterone. This causes the nasal membranes to swell up. Due to this they dry out easily. This causes nasal congestion and makes breathing difficult. Such heavy breathing, in turn, leads to chest pain.
  • Treatment
This condition does not necessarily need any medical attention. Easy home remedies like, using a chest rub, taking steam bath, drinking herbal tea, and placing an extra pillow under your head while sleeping, help. However, if the symptoms last for more than a week, it is recommended to consult your doctor.
  • Cause
Since the demand of iron and other vitamins increases during pregnancy, women often suffer from anemia. Anemia means less oxygen supply to the blood cells. This puts a strain on the heart to provide the fetus with the necessary oxygen. This causes heart palpitations and chest pain. There are two types of anemia that commonly affect pregnant women: (1) Dilutional anemia; and (2) Iron deficiency anemia.
Dilutional anemia is caused when the blood volume increases in comparison to the red blood cell production, to support the blood circulation of the fetus. This may cause dilutional anemia in the mother. Another type of anemia, iron deficiency anemia, can be caused either due to high demand of red blood cells by the body or an already existing deficiency of iron. Deficiency of vitamin B12 and folic acid can also cause anemia in pregnant women. Along with chest pain, anemia also leads to shortness of breath, fatigue, weakness, palpitations, and irritability.
  • Treatment
This condition can be diagnosed by checking the hemoglobin levels and the visible signs like pallor in the fingernails and the lower eyelid. It is best to consume vegetables high in iron―green vegetables, beans, fresh fruits, etc. and if need be, iron supplements, as prescribed by the doctor to prevent anemia.
Calcium Deficiency
  • Cause
A pregnant woman needs at least 1200 mg of calcium to meet the body's requirements. If these requirements are not met, then the body starts utilizing the calcium from the bones for the development of the baby, resulting in weak and brittle bones. Calcium deficiency also causes muscle cramps in the pectoralis (the chest muscle) leading to chest pain.
  • Treatment
To cope with calcium deficiency during pregnancy, one must ensure that she is meeting the calcium requirements of the body through her dietary intake. Milk, cheese, yogurt, and green leafy vegetables are good sources of calcium. It can also be obtained through exposure to the sun. You can consult your doctor to check if you need additional supplements to meet your body's calcium requirements.
Stress and Anxiety
  • Cause
Stress and anxiety is another cause of chest pain. When we are stressed we take shorter breaths. This causes difficulty in breathing and puts unnecessary pressure on the lungs, thus leading to chest pain. Apart from chest pain, stress can also cause panic attacks, headaches, backaches, and other muscle aches. It also affects your sleep and weakens your immune system.
  • Treatment
If you feel you are stressed out, spend your time in some relaxing activities like, listening to soothing music, taking a stroll in a park, doing deep-breathing exercises, etc.
Other Causes
Enlargement of Breasts
During pregnancy, a woman's breasts increase in size due to the hormonal changes (increase in the levels of estrogen and progesterone) that take place in the body. Another reason for breast enlargement is the fat accumulation and increased blood flow to the breasts. This additional weight of the breasts can cause pain in the chest.
Widening of Rib Cage
The rib cage widens to make room for the fetus. This puts strain on the chest. As the baby grows, it puts even more pressure on the rib cage and diaphragm, thus causing chest pain.
Chest pain during pregnancy is completely normal. But if the pain is severe or persists for a long time, it is advisable to consult your doctor rather than diagnosing yourself. Make sure you do not take ANY medication without your doctor's consent.
Disclaimer: This HerHaleness article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for professional medical advice.