Peripartum cardiomyopathy i.e. PPCM is a very rarely found heart disorder which usually occurs either in the last month of pregnancy or in the first five months after delivery. In medical terms this problem is also known as postpartum cardiomyopathy. In this condition, the muscles surrounding heart becomes very weak and enlarged in size. This leads to drastic fall in the amount of blood ejected from the heart’s left ventricle. This ultimately hinders the normal flow of blood and drastically reduces the blood flow, this way heart becomes inefficient to fulfill the required amount of oxygen in the body. This also affects the functioning of liver, lungs and other systems of the body.
The problem is peripartum cardiomyopathy is extremely rare in countries like Canada, US and Europe. Research has revealed that every year around 1000 to 1300 women suffer from this problem. However, in some other countries the problem is comparatively common and this happens mainly because of the difference in the lifestyle, genetics and the diet.
As such it is very difficult to diagnose peripartum cardiomyopathy; this is because the symptoms of PPCM closely resemble the common symptoms of pregnancy, like swelling of legs & feet and short of breath. In serious cases the swelling becomes permanent (even after child delivery) and the problem of breathlessness becomes too severe. At the time of examination doctors first try to identify the symptoms of presence of fluid in the lungs. Doctors make use of stethoscope to identify rapid heartbeat, abnormal sound from the lungs & heart. Further, echocardiogram test helps in displaying abnormal functioning of heart.
Peripartum Cardiomyopathy is identified mainly when below mentioned criteria are met:
- Patient develops heart failure either in the last month of pregnancy or within the first five months after the delivery.
- Heart pumping drastically reduces bringing the ejection fraction to even less than forty-five percent. Ejection fraction is the term which determines the amount of blood pumps out from the left ventricle after every contraction. Experts say that EF i.e. ejection fraction percentage of a normal individual range between fifty five to seventy percent.
Blood test is the primary step for evaluating the problem of PPCM. The test helps in identifying the functioning of kidney, thyroid and liver. It also helps in knowing the amount of potassium and sodium in the body. In addition, the test also show the total count of red blood cells in the body or any spot of infection (if present) in the body.
Is Peripartum Cardiomyopathy Hereditary?
Some of the valid evidences reveal that the problem is hereditary i.e. the problem is passed from one generation to another. Although, not in every case but in majority of cases the problem display genetic component.
The only way to minimize or completely avoid this problem is by making the heart stronger. Women should quit smoking, intake of alcohol, lead a balance life and work out regularly. For women who have suffered this problem there are high possibilities of reoccurrence of this problem in future pregnancies. One important thing which every woman should keep in mind is that plan a second pregnancy only when they have completely recovered from peripartum cardiomyopathy i.e. they have regained their heart’s original strength. This will facilitate in maintaining good health of the expecting mother and the unborn child.
PPCM does not display any prominent symptom, but some of the rarely found symptoms of the problem include:
- Nocturia i.e. sudden rise in the night time urination
- Swelling in ankles and neck veins
- Low blood pressure
The severity of Peripartum Cardiomyopathy can be classified in to following:
- Class I – Problem without displaying any symptoms
- Class II – Mild or no symptoms with extreme exertion
- Class III – Clear symptoms with very less exertion
- Class IV – Symptoms at rest.
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