By Effie Koustas, MSPT
Once you find out you’re pregnant, you’re hyper-aware of changes to your body. One of those changes is how pregnancy affects your circulation. Due to the demands of pregnancy, the heart and blood vessels are more stressed. Your blood volume increases by 30 to 50 percent, your heart rate increases and your heart pumps more blood each minute, all to ensure proper nourishment of your growing baby. Below are some helpful hints and precautions to keep in mind to care for your circulatory system during this special time…
Up to 80% of pregnant women experience venous insufficiency (an inability of your veins to adequately return blood to your heart). Almost 40% develop varicose veins. These often result in complaints of heaviness or cramps in your legs or swollen feet. One of the best ways to assist your veins with circulation is to elevate your legs as often as possible or to wear compression stockings during the day.
Blood clots are a concern due to increased blood-clotting proteins and decreased blood flow in your body. Shortness of breath, although common during pregnancy, should be brought to your obstetrician’s attention to rule out blood clots. If traveling, you will need to get cleared by your doctor for air travel, especially if you are having circulatory issues. After your baby is born, unfortunately your body doesn’t bounce right back. It will take time for your body to return to its pre-pregnancy state—according to the American Heart Association, the risk of developing a blood clot is 10 times greater than normal for 6 weeks after delivery.
Lastly, though it is getting cold outside and a warm bath is a nice way to relax, keeping your body temperature from elevating by avoiding hot tubs/saunas is also recommended.
Following these tips and being aware of these precautions during pregnancy can help you, and your developing baby, stay healthy. Remember, if something doesn’t seem right, it’s always better to tell the obstetrician vs. trying to wait it out.
Effie Koustas, MSPT is a Pre & Postnatal specialist. You can contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 603.644.8334 to schedule an appointment.