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Does Your Stomach Pulsate? Is That a PH Symptom?

Medically reviewed by Angelica Balingit, M.D.
Written by Sarah Winfrey
Posted on October 24, 2023

A pulmonary hypertension (PH) diagnosis can be scary. After all, although the condition can be effectively managed, it has no cure and its symptoms can pose some challenges. PH can also become a catch-all for new symptoms. Every time you experience something new, you may end up wondering whether it’s caused by PH or something else.

If you’re experiencing a pulsating feeling in your stomach, like your heart is beating in that area, you may wonder if it’s related to your PH diagnosis. This article explains if PH can cause that feeling and what else might be to blame.

What Causes Stomach Pulsing if You Have Pulmonary Hypertension?

There are a few reasons why you might feel your stomach pulsing like it has a heartbeat. Some of these causes pertain to PH, while some indicate that you may have another condition, too.

High Blood Pressure

A disease that affects your blood vessels or high blood pressure can cause you to feel a pulsing sensation in your stomach. High blood pressure is a risk for developing an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), discussed more below.

PH causes high blood pressure in the arteries that carry blood from your heart to your lungs to pick up oxygen. If severe or untreated, it can lead to right-sided heart failure. Right-sided heart failure leads to enlargement of the liver, which may be felt as abdominal pain, swelling, or pulsations.

Unless feeling your pulse in your stomach is a recurring PH symptom you’ve already discussed with your doctor, you need to seek medical advice right away if you begin experiencing it. It can indicate a serious problem that needs to be treated quickly.

Note that a pulsating feeling in your stomach is not one of the most common symptoms of PH. These include shortness of breath, chest pain, low oxygen levels, edema (swelling), and changes in your heart rate or heart rhythm. If there are abdominal pulsations from PH, it’s caused by an enlarged liver from right-sided heart failure.

Pregnancy

If you’re pregnant, you may feel your pulse in your stomach. Your body’s blood volume rises significantly when you’re pregnant, meaning there is more blood circulating all the time. Every time your heart beats, it moves more blood than you are used to.

In addition, your uterus is taking up more space than normal, which can cause cramped conditions in your abdomen for everything, including the major arteries. All of this can combine to make it more likely you will feel your pulse in your stomach if you’re pregnant.

If you have PH and believe you are feeling your pulse in your stomach because of pregnancy, talk to your doctor right away. PH and pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) can make pregnancy harder and dangerous for both the mother and the baby.

Eating

Some people feel pulsing in their stomachs after they eat, though this is usually not something new. Most people who experience this sensation have been doing so for years. When you’re digesting food, your body sends more blood to your stomach and intestines. Some people feel this increased blood flow regularly, and it can come across as a pulsing sensation.

Lying Down

Everyone’s body is put together slightly differently. Some people feel their stomach pulsate whenever they lie down. People with very low body fat might even be able to see their pulse in their stomachs when they do so. Again, people who experience this have usually been doing so for years, so it’s not something new that indicates a problem.

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

Your aorta is the major artery that transports blood throughout your body. It runs through many places, including through your abdomen just above your belly button. If you probe this area, you might be able to feel it, and doctors can usually feel it when they press on your stomach.

Sometimes, your aorta can swell up, causing an abdominal aortic aneurysm. This medical condition needs to be treated right away, because these swollen sections can burst open, causing a massive amount of blood loss in a short time. One of the most common indiciations that an AAA that has gotten large is a pulsing feeling in the stomach.

Researchers don’t know if PH is a risk factor for developing this health condition. If you’re experiencing a new pulsing sensation in your stomach or abdomen, it’s best to get it checked out right away.

Managing the Pulsing Feeling in Your Stomach

If you and your health care provider have determined that the pulsing feeling in your stomach is not an emergency and is likely caused by your PH, there are a few things you can do to manage it.

Treat Pulmonary Hypertension

Although there’s no way to cure PH, many treatment options are available, such as vasodilators, anticoagulants, and diuretics. The treatment options available for you depend on the cause of your PH, its severity, and other factors about your health. Your cardiology team should be able to help you figure out what will work best in your situation.

Connect With Others

Living with PH can be scary, especially if you’re not sure what to expect or if you’ve just been diagnosed. Connecting with others who are going through the same thing can help because you’ll be able to share your experience and know that it will be heard by people who have gone through the same thing.

Support groups are a great way to get to know others with PH. You can find in-person groups, or you can connect online at myPHteam or with other online groups. They can help you handle unusual symptoms like a pulsing feeling in your abdomen and can help you improve your quality of life.

Consider Lifestyle Changes

Although you can’t make PH go away, you may be able to feel better and stay in good health longer if you make some lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet and getting safe physical activity. Avoid cigarette smoke, high altitudes, and anything that lowers your blood pressure. Get plenty of rest, and make extra time to rest if you are having several bad days in a row.

Talk to Your Doctor

If you begin to feel your stomach pulsate and don’t know the cause, talk to a medical professional right away. If the sensation comes on suddenly and is very strong, you may need to head to an emergency department to get it checked out. Stomach pulsations can be serious, so make sure you get the medical care you need quickly. This will give you the best chance of getting the treatment you need and making a full recovery.

Find Your Team

MyPHteam is the social network for people with pulmonary hypertension and their loved ones. On myPHteam, more than 51,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with pulmonary hypertension.

Are you wondering if pulsating in your stomach is a symptom of PH? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

Posted on October 24, 2023
All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.

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Angelica Balingit, M.D. is a specialist in internal medicine, board certified since 1996. Learn more about her here
Sarah Winfrey is a writer at MyHealthTeam. Learn more about her here

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