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Br Heart J. 1992 Dec;68(6):540-3.

Adaptation of the maternal heart in pregnancy.

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  • 1Department of Paediatric Cardiology, Freeman Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne.


The first haemodynamic change during pregnancy seems to be a rise in heart rate. Starting between two and five weeks this continues well into the third trimester. Stroke volume increases slightly later than the heart rate and continues throughout the second trimester after an augmentation of venous return and a fall of systemic vascular resistance and afterload. Myocardial contractility is probably slightly increased. During the third trimester there is relatively little change in these cardiac indices. After delivery there is a very early and dramatic reduction in volume loading followed by a return towards normal cardiac output. Structural changes within the heart reflect the volume loading of pregnancy and include dilatation of the valve ring and increase in myocardial thickness. Post partum resolution of the ventricular hypertrophy seems to take longer than the rest of the post partum changes. The resemblance to the cardiovascular changes associated with training and exercise are fascinating and worthy of further study.

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