Peripartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM) is a rare, life-threatening disorder characterized by an enlargement and weakening of the heart during or shortly after pregnancy. Although PPCM can affect childbearing women of any age, it is more commonly diagnosed in women over age 30.
The exact cause of PPCM remains unknown, but cardiologists speculate that genetics, hormonal changes and exposure to viruses may play a factor. PPCM is often overlooked, as common symptoms of the condition can mimic those of pregnancy.
- Shortness of breath
- Fluid retention/swelling
- Excessive fatigue
- Chest pain
- Rapid heartbeat and/or heart palpitations
- Increased urination at night
- High blood pressure
- Personal history of heart disease
- Multiple pregnancies
- Being over age 30
- African-American descent
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Using certain medications to prevent premature labor
Treatments for PPCM include beta-blockers to manage heart rate and lower blood pressure, and diuretics to remove fluid buildup. Additionally, doctors often recommend low-sodium diets and limiting physical activity. Patients with severe symptoms of heart failure who do not respond to typical treatment methods may require a temporary heart pump or a heart transplant to survive. In roughly half of all cases, PPCM resolves on its own, but the condition may develop again during subsequent pregnancies.