While a myocardial infarction (heart attack) can happen to anybody, regardless of race, gender, or age, there are many factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing a MI. Research has shown that one of these factors is actually pregnancy. During pregnancy, the normal cardiac changes such as hypercoagulation and risk factors such as hypertension can increase a woman’s risk of developing an AMI. Even though AMIs are rare in women of reproductive age, pregnancy increases the risk by approximately 3-4 times. Pre-existing heart conditions and complications during pregnancy increase this risk even further [1].


Other risk factors [2]:

  • Hypertension
  • Age above 35 years old
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Smoking
  • Thrombophilia (increased ability of blood to clot)
  • African race 


  • If an AMI does occur during or after pregnancy, it poses a very high risk for the mother. Mortality rates range from 5.1-11%. Therefore, it is important for clinicians to recognize abnormal symptoms. If a woman has chest pain or shortness of breath, an AMI is a possibility. Other potential diagnoses are pulmonary embolism and aortic dissection. An ECG and troponin levels are important methods to diagnose the issue [3].

Signs & Symptoms [4]:

Signs and symptoms of a heart attack are not always obvious in women, and can be even less obvious during pregnancy. Here are some important ones to look out for:

  • Pressure, pain or squeezing in the center of chest
  • Pain the arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweat or chills,
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

If any of these symptoms are present, it is important to call 911 immediately to get to a hospital. Even if it is not a heart attack, it is better to be safe than sorry.



  1. Jaiswal A, Rashid M, Balek M, Park C. Acute myocardial infarction during pregnancy: A clinical checkmate. Indian Heart J. 2013;65(4):464-468. doi:10.1016/j.ihj.2013.06.016.
  2. James AH, Jamison MG, Biswas MS, Brancazio LR, Swamy GK, Myers ER. Acute myocardial infarction in pregnancy: A United States population-based study. Circulation AHA. 2006; 113(12): 1564-1571. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.105.576751
  3. Lameijer H, Lont MC, Buter H, van Boven AJ, Boonstra PW, Pieper PG. Pregnancy-related myocardial infarction. Neth Heart J. 2017;25(6):365-369. doi:10.1007/s12471-017-0989-9.
  4. Heart attack symptoms in women. AHA Web site. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/WarningSignsofaHeartAttack/Heart-Attack-Symptoms-in-Women_UCM_436448_Article.jsp#.WZNANVKWyUl. Updated April 17, 2017. Accessed July, 2017.

By: Stephanie Kramer