Peripartum Cardiomyopathy is a rare type of heart failure that can occur during pregnancy, or just after delivery.

 

The disease weakens the heart muscle which results in the heart becoming enlarged - this means that the heart can’t pump blood properly to the rest of the body.

 

Women usually get diagnosed with PPCM during the last month of their pregnancies or within five months of delivery - with symptoms ranging from mild to severe.

 

 

What causes Peripartum Cardiomyopathy?

 

The heart pumps almost 50 percent more blood during pregnancy because you have to provide enough oxygen and nutrients to your growing bundle of joy.

 

And while there is no exact cause of PPCM, it is believed that it occurs when the extra pumping of blood combines with other risk factors - which places extra stress on the heart.

 

 

Who is at risk of Peripartum Cardiomyopathy?

 

There are a number of factors that can increase a mother's likelihood of getting PPCM:

 

  • being obese
  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • history of heart disease
  • malnutrition
  • smoking
  • alcoholism
  • multiple pregnancies
  • being a geriatric mother (over 35)
  • premature delivery medications

 

 

How is PPCM treated?

 

Mums-to-be who develop PPCM stay in the hospital until their symptoms are under control - with your doctor recommending treatment based on the severity of your condition.

 

While PPCM heart damage is irreversible, your heart can still function for a long time.

 

The outlook for women diagnosed with PPCM is good for those whose hearts return to normal size after delivery. 

 

Just four percent of patients require a heart transplant, which extremely low - and has a very high success rate. 

 

 

Your doctor may prescribe you with medications to control your symptoms:

 

  • beta-blockers: drugs that reduce blood pressure 
  • digitalis: drugs that improve pumping and circulation
  • diuretics: drugs that lower blood pressure

 

Women with this condition may also need to follow a low-salt diet to manage their blood pressure. They should avoid alcohol and smoking products entirely.

 

If you want more information on this condition or other cardiovascular health issues throughout your pregnancy, please contact the British Heart Foundation 

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