How to Stay Heart Healthy During Pregnancy


Pregnancy is an exciting time, a time to plan for the growth of your family, for college funds and nursery colors. It is also a time, according to Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, to take care of your body in heart-healthy ways.

Eating and Exercise

“Pregnancy is a time to go back to basics,” says Steinbaum, national spokesperson for Go Red For Women and author of Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum’s Heart Book: Every Woman’s Guide to a Heart-Healthy Life. “The healthiest diet we’ve seen is the Mediterranean-style diet, which is typically high in high fiber whole grains, nuts and omega-3 fatty acids from fish and olive oil.”

Steinbaum warns pregnant women to stay away from salt because it can increase their blood pressure and cause bladder retention. It is also a good idea to avoid caffeine because it can trigger irregular heartbeats, she says.

“Watch your diet and watch your weight; pregnancy doesn’t give you ‘carte blanche’ to eat whatever you want,” she says. “Remember that you are trying to get nutrients to a growing fetus. Do you want your fetus to be growing on gummy bears? I don’t think so.”

Exercise is important during pregnancy because it can help manage your weight.Women who are pregnant should be under the care of a health-care provider with whom they can discuss how to adjust amounts of physical activity during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Unless a woman has medical reasons to avoid physical activity during pregnancy, she can begin or continue moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity during her pregnancy and after the baby is born, suggests Steinbaum.

Women with heart disease

What if you get pregnant after you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease or experienced a heart attack? In that case, Steinbaum recommends going to a high-risk OB doctor and alerting your cardiologist immediately to your pregnancy.

“If you have heart disease, you may be on medications that could be harmful to your baby,” she says. “Tell your doctors about your pregnancy right away and ask them about every medication you are on to make sure it won’t hurt your fetus.”