What Is Peripartum Cardiomyopathy?
cardiomyopathy is a rare type of heart failure that occurs during pregnancy or
immediately after delivery. The condition weakens the heart muscle and causes
the heart to become enlarged. As a result, the heart can’t pump blood properly
to the rest of the body.
According to the American Heart Association, this heart condition affects about
1,000 to 1,300 women in the United States each year. Women usually receive a
diagnosis during the last month of their pregnancies or within five months of
prior to your pregnancy can increase your risk of developing this condition.
Quick medical attention is crucial to prevent further complications.
What Are the Causes of Peripartum
Your heart pumps up
to 50 percent more blood during pregnancy. This is because you have to transfer
oxygen and vital nutrients to your growing baby. There’s no definitive cause of
peripartum cardiomyopathy. However, doctors believe this condition occurs when
the extra pumping of blood combines with other risk factors. This combination
places additional stress on the heart.
Who Is at Risk for
A variety of risk
factors can increase your chances of developing this condition, including:
- high blood pressure
- personal history of heart disease
including myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle)
- African-American descent
- multiple pregnancies
- being over the age of 30
- premature delivery medications
What Are the Symptoms of Peripartum
peripartum cardiomyopathy are similar to symptoms of heart failure. You may
- rapid heartbeat or palpitations
- chest pain
- excessive fatigue
- tiredness during physical activity
- shortness of breath
- swelling of feet and ankles
- increased urination at night
How Is Peripartum Cardiomyopathy Diagnosed?
Your doctor will
review your symptoms and perform a physical exam. A device called a stethoscope
may be used on your chest to help the doctor listen for crackling noises in the
lungs and abnormal sounds within the heart. Your doctor will also test your
blood pressure. Your blood pressure may be lower than normal. It could also
drop significantly when you stand up.
A variety of
imaging tests can measure your heart. These tests also determine the rate of
blood flow. Some of these imaging tests can also view potential lung damage.
Possible tests may include:
- X-ray of the entire chest
- CT scan for detailed pictures of
- nuclear heart scan to show heart
- sound waves to create moving
pictures of the heart (echocardiogram)
What Are the Treatment Options for
Your doctor will
recommend treatment based on the severity of your condition. Peripartum
cardiomyopathy doesn’t have a cure, and the heart damage is irreversible. Women
who develop this condition remain in the hospital until their symptoms are
Doctors recommend a
heart transplant or a balloon heart pump in severe cases. For most women,
however, treatment involves managing and reducing symptoms.
Your doctor may
prescribe the following medications to control your symptoms:
- beta-blockers: drugs that reduce
blood pressure and improve blood flow by blocking the adrenaline hormone
- digitalis: drugs that strengthen
the heart to improve pumping and circulation
- diuretics: drugs that lower blood
pressure by removing excess water and salt from the body
Women with this
condition may also need to follow a low-salt diet to manage their blood
pressure. They should avoid alcohol and tobacco products entirely. These
products can make symptoms worse.
cardiomyopathy can affect your health for the rest of your life, even after
successful treatment. Follow through with regular checkups and take all
medications as directed.
What Are the Complications Associated with
- blood clots, particularly in the
- congestive heart failure
How Can I Prevent Peripartum Cardiomyopathy?
habits can decrease your risk. This is especially important for first time
mothers. Focus on:
- regular exercise
- a low-fat diet
- avoiding cigarettes
- avoiding alcohol
Women who received
a diagnosis of peripartum cardiomyopathy are at risk for developing the
condition with future pregnancies. In these cases, women may consider taking
birth control to prevent pregnancy altogether.
What Is the Long-Term Outlook?
The outlook for this condition depends on the
severity and time frame of your condition. Some women who develop the condition
during pregnancy may have their hearts return to normal size after delivery.
For others, their condition can continue to worsen. In these cases, a heart
transplant is the best way to preserve longevity.