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Heart health window during pregnancy

Written By: Shelley Vanker, UT Physicians | Updated: March 6, 2024
Pregnant woman checking blood pressure in a doctor's office

Consistently checking blood pressure during pregnancy shows how the heart copes with added stress.

The months of pregnancy are often filled with excitement, anticipation, and preparation for the baby. But with so much focus on a new bundle of joy, Diana A. Racusin, MD, maternal-fetal medicine specialist with UT Physicians, says pregnancy also opens a brief window of opportunity to focus on the mother and her heart health.

Diana A. Racusin, MD - Maternal-Fetal Medicine
Diana A. Racusin, MD

“Pregnancy is a stress test for your general health,” said Racusin, assistant professor at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston. “Things that come up in pregnancy can give us a peek into both your current health and into risk factors for things that can develop in the future.”

Racusin says blood volume in a pregnant woman can increase by 50%, giving heart function and pregnancy a direct correlation.

“When you’re pregnant, your heart works harder, so your heart is definitely under more stress than it would be when you are not pregnant,” she said.


All that overtime work can sometimes lead to a complication called preeclampsia – high blood pressure caused by pregnancy.

“We often say the cure for preeclampsia is delivering the baby,” said Racusin. “But women need to be aware of the new lifelong risk for developing hypertension later.”

Developing hypertension, or chronic high blood pressure, can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke.

Window of health

Racusin says a diagnosis of high blood pressure during pregnancy offers a unique way for women to get a glimpse into their future health.

“The beauty of all of this is knowing the risk factors and being aware,” she said. “If you are diagnosed with preeclampsia, make plans to see your primary care physician regularly and make lifestyle choices that are more in line with your new risk profile.”

Lifestyle choices she says should include consistently monitoring your blood pressure.

As the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, UT Physicians has locations across the Greater Houston area to serve the community. To schedule an appointment, call 888-4UT-DOCS.