Peripartum cardiomyopathy

Peripartum cardiomyopathy


Peripartum cardiomyopathy or pregnancy-associated cardiomyopathy is a serious condition that damages your heart muscle and prevents your heart from pumping blood to the rest of your body. This condition affects people in the last month of pregnancy or up to five months after delivery and it can occur at any age but is most common in people over 30 years old.

In PPCM the heart chambers enlarge and the heart muscle weakens. This causes a decrease in the amount of blood the heart pumps with each heartbeat. The percentage of blood ejected from the heart with each contraction is called the left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF). Normally, your LVEF is 55% to 70%. Peripartum cardiomyopathy reduces your LVEF to less than 45%. The lower your LVEF, the more serious your condition.

A weakened heart can cause fatigue and low blood pressure due to less blood flow to your body, and can cause swelling in legs and abdomen due to fluid buildup in organs like the lungs and liver. Some time the patient might present with Hypertensive cardiomyopathy, mitral value leakage (regurgitation).

As your left ventricle gets weak and tired, it can’t pump blood as efficiently to your lungs, liver and other organs that rely upon it. This slowdown affects your whole body. It leads to heart failure and raises your risk of blood clots and thrombosis.

The symptoms of peripartum cardiomyopathy are easy to miss because many of them are similar to what you feel from being pregnant. But because the condition is so serious, it’s important to watch for the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea) — especially when trying to sleep, when lying down or with physical activity.
  • Easy Fatigability
  • Swelling (edema) of your feet and ankles.
  • Heart palpitations.
  • Dry cough.
  • Needing to urinate more often at night (nocturia).
  • Swollen neck veins (Jugular vein)
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension) or blood pressure that drops suddenly when you stand up.
  • Being over age 30
  • High blood Pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Over Weight
  • Selenium Deficiency

There’s no specific test designed to diagnose peripartum cardiomyopathy. Instead, your health provider will use other tests along with the history of the patient.

  • Blood tests to check for anemia, electrolyte imbalances
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG) to check for arrhythmia.
  • Chest X-ray to look for signs of heart failure.
  • Echocardiogram (echo) to evaluate your heart’s anatomy and function and show any congenital heart disease or valvular diseases. The echo will also show your left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF), which is an essential part of your peripartum cardiomyopathy diagnosis.

The best way to prevent peripartum cardiomyopathy is to do whatever you can to keep your heart healthy. While some risk factors can’t be avoided, others can be managed through lifestyle actions such as:

  • Eating a heart-healthy diet.
  • Getting regular exercise.
  • Avoiding cigarettes and alcohol.
  • If you have obesity, working with your healthcare provider to find strategies to lower your weight in a healthy way.
  • Getting your blood pressure checked regularly and treated if needed.

Complications include:

  • Cardiac arrhythmias (can be deadly)
  • Congestive heart failure (of both the right and left heart failure)
  • Clot formation in the heart which can embolize (travel to other parts of the body)

With a number of homeopathic remedies, this condition can be treated depending on the individualist presentation of symptoms of the patient.   

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