My SVT Episode During Pregnancy

I had my first emergency room visit this week and I know what you’re thinking – no, Baby Jacob hasn’t graced us with his presence yet. As much as I wish he would come out right now; I thought I’d share with you what happened because after reading several baby forums this is a common problem that happens to women during pregnancy. Prior to yesterday I had only ever had one episode three years ago of what I now know as a Supraventricular Tachycardia; also known as SVT. I didn’t think too much of it at the time as I had just come home from a boozy day at the races in 30 degree heat and was probably suffering a mild case of dehydration.

In hindsight I probably should have gotten this checked out immediately but because it self corrected and wasn’t a reoccurring issue I brushed it off as a one-off. It’s the typical Helen way of dealing with issues – if it isn’t broke then why fix it? I had never had any known heart issues in the past and frequently do high impact exercise so what could really be wrong with my heart?


Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT)

Supraventricular tachycardia is a rapid heart rate (tachycardia, or a heart rate above 100 beats per minute) that is caused by electrical impulses that originate above the heart’s ventricles.

Signs & Symptoms:

  • A heart rate of 150-270 beats per minute
  • Pounding heart
  • Shortness of breath/Rapid breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness/Light headedness

Supraventricular Tachycardia SVT During PregnancyWhen you become responsible for another life then you can never really be too careful and it was just as well that day that we went to the emergency room to get me checked out because I was diagnosed with SVT. My episode lasted for almost two and a half hours and for a pregnant woman to have a consistent heart rate of 160-180 beats per minute in Aussie Summer heat was not ideal. Walking into the emergency room was confronting to say the least, as I had never really been in one before and on this particular afternoon, it was incredibly busy. Thankfully we only had to wait for fifteen minutes before a nurse triaged me and wheeled me into the resuscitation room for treatment with the doctors.

I got to strip off my brand new Camilla dress that I wanted to show off that day with my huge baby bump and replaced it with one of those delightful hospital gowns that leave your rear end hanging out for the world to see. The whole process in the ward was a bit of a blur but essentially I had about four different nurses and two doctors that hooked me up onto various machines and popping in and out intermittently. They tried a bunch of methods to slow my heart rate before finally settling on the drugs as being the only way to control my heart rate.

They must’ve had an alarm set to go off each time a patient’s heart rate went above 160bpm because it was going off almost every 20 seconds in our cubicle. You’d see nurses ducking their heads in from behind the curtain to check every time the alarm went off – it was all a bit manic. Meanwhile I was trying to keep my left boob from popping out from under the gown because of all the wires coming out from the top of it.

Here comes the fun part and I say this with an extreme degree of sarcasm because the drug they used was not particularly pleasant – it’s called adenosine. The doctors essentially said that this drug was fast acting but was going to make me feel like sh*t for a few seconds before it starts really work its magic. So what did it feel like? They weren’t kidding when they warned that it would kick in within seconds of injecting it into my IV because I felt a wave come across my chest before seizing every muscle in that entire region.

SVT Episode During PregnancyI spent ages trying to come up with the appropriate words to describe the exact feeling but it felt like a tonne of bricks was coming down onto my chest for 4-5 seconds before easing off. It was after all this magic that the Doc said that some have described the feeling as though they were dying and crossing over to the other side. Imagine if he had led with that line? Ha!

My eyes were popping out of my head at this stage (in an almost comical Looney Tunes way) at what he had just said and the fact that the drug essentially stops your heart for a few moments as it reboots itself to a normal rhythm. I was pretty composed considering the stories he had about others not reacting to the drug so calmly as I did but I did feel like bursting out in tears at a few points.

After all that the episode was under control, Chris said that my heart rate literally went from 170 to 105 within 3 seconds after the drug was administered and that’s where it stayed thankfully. I should also mention that moments before the adenosine we caught a small glimpse of a very elderly old man being wheeled into the resuscitation room whilst a doctor was attempting to revive him. Yep – it wasn’t the best morale booster.

In most cases SVT episodes tend to disappear after a few minutes but if you have this or suspect you may have SVT and it goes on for longer than 15 minutes then get yourself to the doctors! I waited for about two hours before I decided it was too much for me to handle and we rushed to the hospital (running a red light in the process – oops!). The doctors and my obstetrician reassured us that this wasn’t uncommon for women to experience during pregnancy and that there wasn’t any harm to the baby going through one of these episodes. I’m feeling a lot better now and we ended up back at the beach the next day because our afternoon got cut short the other day.

I’d love to hear if any one else has ever experienced adenosine and how they would describe it because I can assure you, there’s no feeling you’ll ever experience like it.


You can read about why I haven’t enjoyed my pregnancy here and what I’ve learnt about childbirth here now that I am nearing the end of my term. Eek!