Overview of Peripartum cardiomyopathy | Cardiology 

Peripartum cardiomyopathy

What is peripartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM)?

Peripartum cardiomyopathy is a rare heart failure. It occurs during pregnancy or straightaway after delivery. This condition weakens the heart muscle and causes the heart to dilate. As a result, the heart does not pump blood decently to the rest of the body.

PPCM is similar to dilated cardiomyopathy in that it affects the left ventricle of the heart. The main pumping chamber of the heart is: pumping blood from the heart and to the rest of the body. Normally, the left ventricle sends blood from the heart efficiently with enough pressure to reach all parts of the body.

In PPCM, the left ventricular chamber expands. As the ventricle becomes larger than normal, the muscle wall expands and becomes thinner. It weakens your muscles, which means you work less. This causes less blood to be expelled from the heart and less energy than usual. Inadequate blood circulation causes fluid to build up in the tissues, especially the lungs, which means that less oxygen is available to the body’s organs. This effect is called “heart failure” when it causes symptoms such as shortness of breath, cough, and extreme fatigue because the heart does not meet the body’s normal oxygen demands.

Symptoms of Peripartum cardiomyopathy

The symptoms of peripartum cardiomyopathy are similar to the symptoms of heart failure. You can experience:

  • Fast heartbeat or palpitations
  • Chest pain
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Fatigue during physical activity
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of the feet and ankles
  • Increased urination at night

Causes of Peripartum cardiomyopathy

During pregnancy, your heart sends 50 percent more blood. This is because you need to transfer oxygen and essential nutrients to your growing baby. There is no definite cause for peripartum cardiomyopathy. However, doctors believe that this condition occurs when excessive blood pumping is combined with other risk factors. This combination puts additional pressure on the heart.

Risk factors for Peripartum cardiomyopathy

A variety of risk factors increase your chances of developing this condition, including:

  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Personal history of heart disease, including myocarditis
  • Malnutrition
  • Of smoking
  • Alcoholism
  • Multiple pregnancies
  • Those over 30
  • Medications for preterm labor 

How is peripartum cardiomyopathy diagnosed?

Your doctor will review your symptoms and perform a physical exam. A device called a stethoscope helps the doctor listen for cracking sounds in the lungs and abnormal sounds in the heart. Your doctor will also monitor your blood pressure. It can be lower than normal and can drop significantly when you stand up.

Different types of imaging tests can measure your heart rate. These tests also determine the speed of blood flow. Some lung and lung damage can also be seen on these imaging tests. Exams may include:

  • X-ray of the whole chest
  • CT scan to obtain detailed images of the heart
  • Nuclear heart scan to show the heart chambers
  • Sound waves (echocardiogram) to create moving images of the heart

What are the treatment options for peripartum cardiomyopathy?

Women who develop this condition stay in the hospital until their symptoms are under control. And your doctor will recommend treatment based on the severity of your condition. Peripartum cardiomyopathy heart damage is irreversible. However, a damaged heart can still function for a long time, depending on the severity of the damage. The severity of the damage also determines whether a heart transplant is necessary.

The outlook for women with peripartum cardiomyopathy is good for those whose hearts return to normal size after delivery. It happens to 30-50 percent of women. In all cases, 4% of patients require a heart transplant and 9% die as a result of the heart transplant procedure.

In severe cases, doctors may recommend a heart transplant or a heart balloon pump. However, for most women, symptoms are controlled and reduced during treatment.

Your doctor may prescribe the following medications to control your symptoms:

  • Beta-blockers: Drugs that lower blood pressure and improve blood flow by blocking the hormone adrenaline
  • Digitalis: Medications that strengthen the heart to improve pumping and circulation
  • Diuretics: Medications that lower blood pressure by removing excess water and salt from the body

Women with this condition must also follow a low-salt diet to maintain blood pressure. They should completely avoid alcohol and tobacco products. These products can make symptoms worse.

Peripartum cardiomyopathy can affect your health for the rest of your life, even after successful treatment. Follow up with regular check-ups and take all prescribed medications.

What are the complications associated with peripartum cardiomyopathy?

Serious problems are:

  • Arrhythmia
  • Blood clots, especially in the lungs.
  • Circulatory heart failure
  • Death


Certain lifestyle habits can lower your risk. This is especially important for new moms. Attention:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat a low-fat diet
  • Avoiding cigarettes
  • Avoiding alcohol

Women diagnosed with peripartum cardiomyopathy are at increased risk of developing this condition in future pregnancies. In these cases, women may consider taking birth control to prevent pregnancy.

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