Altered maternal left ventricular contractility and function during normal pregnancy

Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol. 2013 Jun;41(6):659-66. doi: 10.1002/uog.12296.


Objectives: To evaluate maternal left ventricular (LV) systolic and diastolic function during normal pregnancy by non-invasive measures of LV contractility incorporating loading conditions.

Methods: Sixty-five women were examined using echocardiography, including tissue Doppler and two-dimensional speckle tracking, and subclavian artery pulse trace recordings at gestational weeks 14-16, 22-24 and 36, and at 6 months postpartum.

Results: The mean ± SD age of the women was 32.0 ± 4.6 years. Cardiac output and LV end-diastolic volume were on average 20% and 23% higher, respectively, during pregnancy, compared to that at 6 months postpartum (both, P < 0.01). LV ejection fraction, global peak systolic strain and rate-corrected LV velocity of circumferential fiber shortening (Vcfc) were 11%, 6% and 6% lower, respectively, at 36 weeks' gestation compared to at 6 months postpartum (all, P < 0.01). Afterload, measured as LV end-systolic wall stress (ESWS) increased by 10% between 14-16 and 36 weeks' gestation (P < 0.01). Analysis of the relationship between Vcfc and ESWS revealed that LV contractility was lower during pregnancy than at 6 months postpartum. Changes in diastolic function were demonstrated by 11% lower mitral early diastolic (E) wave velocity, 8% lower tissue Doppler early diastolic velocity (e') and 13% higher left atrial area (all P < 0.01) during pregnancy. Tissue Doppler E/e' remained unaltered (P = 0.78).

Conclusions: During normal pregnancy, LV contractility is lower than it is at 6 months postpartum. This is associated with increased LV and left atrial area, whereas filling pressures are unchanged. These findings suggest that pregnancy exerts a larger load on the cardiovascular system than previously assumed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diastole / physiology
  • Echocardiography / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Myocardial Contraction / physiology*
  • Pregnancy / physiology*
  • Subclavian Artery / physiology
  • Ventricular Function, Left / physiology*