Comprehensive Physiology Wiley Online Library

Cardiac Physiology of Pregnancy

Full Article on Wiley Online Library


Although the physiology of the heart and vascular system has not changed, there are many things we have learned and are still learning today. Research related to heart adaptations during pregnancy has been performed since the 1930s. Since the mid‐1950s, researchers began to look at changes in the maternal cardiovascular system during exercise while pregnant. Research related to exercise during pregnancy and offspring heart development began and has continued since the 1970s. We will review the normal female cardiovascular system adaptations to pregnancy in general.

Additionally, topics related to maternal cardiac adaptations to pregnancy during acute exercise, as well as the chronic conditioning response from exercise training will be explored. Since physical activity during pregnancy influences fetal development, the fetal cardiac development will be discussed in regards to acute and chronic maternal exercise. Similarly, the influence of various types of maternal exercise on acute and chronic fetal heart responses will be described. Briefly, the topics related to how and if there is maternal‐fetal synchrony will be explained. Lastly, the developmental changes of the fetal cardiovascular system that persist after birth will be explored.

Overall, the article will discuss maternal cardiac physiology related to changes with normal pregnancy, and exercise during pregnancy, as well as fetal cardiac physiology related to changes with normal development, and exercise during pregnancy as well as developmental changes in offspring after birth. © 2015 American Physiological Society. Compr Physiol 5:1325‐1344, 2015.

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Linda May. Cardiac Physiology of Pregnancy. Compr Physiol 2015, 5: 1325-1344. doi: 10.1002/cphy.c140043