Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

What Is Peripartum Cardiomyopathy?

Peripartum Cardiomyopathy is an extremely rare cardiac condition that occurs either during pregnancy or immediately after the delivery of the child. Peripartum Cardiomyopathy is a type of a heart failure in which the muscles of the heart become weak which results in the enlargement of the heart.

This decreases the ability of the heart to pump in blood to different parts of the body for their normal functioning. Studies have estimated about 1000 females every year to be affected by Peripartum Cardiomyopathy. It is only during the last few weeks of pregnancy or a few months after the delivery of the child that a confirmed diagnosis of Peripartum Cardiomyopathy be made.

What Are The Causes Of Peripartum Cardiomyopathy?

During pregnancy the heart needs to pump about 50% more blood than it normally does as a part of the oxygen and vital nutrients are transferred to the baby as well.
As of now, there is no specific cause for Peripartum Cardiomyopathy but studies suggest that this extra pumping of the blood during pregnancy combined with some other cardiac risk factors like smoking or obesity results in the development of Peripartum Cardiomyopathy.

What Are The Symptoms Of Peripartum Cardiomyopathy?

Some of the symptoms of Peripartum Cardiomyopathy are:

  • Palpitations
  • Chest pain
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Easy fatigue with any sort of physical activity or exertion
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Edema of the lower extremities
  • Increased urinary frequency especially at night

How Is Peripartum Cardiomyopathy Diagnosed?

For a diagnosis of Peripartum Cardiomyopathy, the physician will first take a detailed history of the patient looking for any cardiac risk factors such as smoking or any prior history of a cardiac problem.

The physician will then examine the patient with a stethoscope listening to any audible abnormal heart murmurs. The blood pressure of the patient will also be checked which will be lower than normal in case of Peripartum Cardiomyopathy.

Once Peripartum Cardiomyopathy is suspected, advanced imaging studies may be performed to include CT or MRI scan to look at the structure of the heart which will confirm heart enlargement. An echocardiogram may also be done to confirm the diagnosis of Peripartum Cardiomyopathy.

How Is Peripartum Cardiomyopathy Treated?

A female with a confirmed diagnosis of Peripartum Cardiomyopathy may have to spend some time in the hospital to get the symptoms under control. The treatment for Peripartum Cardiomyopathy depends on the severity of the condition.

The damage done to the heart as a result of Peripartum Cardiomyopathy cannot be reversed but the heart will still be in a position to function for a long period of time depending on the damage done to it.

In case of a severe damage to the heart, a heart transplant may be required to increase the longevity of the patient. In some cases, after the delivery of the child, the heart comes back to its normal size and thus there is no treatment required as such. This is usually the case in about 50% cases of Peripartum Cardiomyopathy.

Heart transplant is very rarely required for Peripartum Cardiomyopathy. In majority of the cases however the treatment is aimed at controlling and reducing the severity of the symptoms of Peripartum Cardiomyopathy.

The patient may be prescribed beta blockers and diuretics to control the edema caused due to Peripartum Cardiomyopathy. Certain lifestyle modifications may also be recommended to control the symptoms of Peripartum Cardiomyopathy. Complete abstinence from alcohol and nicotine products is of prime importance both during pregnancy and after delivery.

Unfortunately, Peripartum Cardiomyopathy is a condition which may continue to trouble the patient even after successful treatment of this condition and thus it is recommended that the patient goes through regular checkups and monitoring to check on the status of Peripartum Cardiomyopathy.

What Is The Overall Prognosis For Peripartum Cardiomyopathy?

The overall prognosis for females whose heart returns back to its normal size after delivery of the child is quite good in the long term pertaining to Peripartum Cardiomyopathy.

For females in whom the heart does not return to its normal size or the condition of Peripartum Cardiomyopathy continues to worsen despite treatment the prognosis becomes guarded and ultimately the individual may need a heart transplant for treatment of Peripartum Cardiomyopathy.

Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: November 15, 2017

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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