Peripartum cardiomyopathy is a rare type of heart failure that happens late in pregnancy or in the months after delivery.
Because this condition may affect your pregnancy and cause lasting damage to your heart, prompt care is essential.
The cardiologists at the Magee-Womens Heart Program have expertise in treating women with peripartum cardiomyopathy.
To request an appointment, contact the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute:
Peripartum cardiomyopathy (also called postpartum cardiomyopathy or PPCM) is an uncommon condition in which a pregnant woman's heart pump weakens.
This condition happens at the end of a pregnancy or within the months after giving birth. It causes a reduced ejection fraction — meaning it lowers the amount of blood your heart pumps to the rest of the body.
As such, your heart can't pump enough blood and oxygen throughout your body and to your organs.
In the U.S., PPCM is rare. It only happens in 1 in about every 2500 deliveries.
The type and class of PPCM depend on the symptoms.
These symptoms can vary in severity which doctors label as PPCM with:
Heart doctors aren't sure what exactly causes PPCM.
Most women receive a diagnosis of heart failure after delivery. But experts believe PPCM directly relates to changes to a woman's body during pregnancy.
Certain types of heart disease or your genes might also play a role in causing peripartum cardiomyopathy.
Many women with PPCM don't have a family history of heart failure.
Women with the following may increase your risk of PPCM:
It's vital to treat this disease because it can further damage your heart. And, if you develop PPCM during pregnancy, it can affect your unborn baby's health.
Your doctor may plan an early delivery to prevent problems for both you and your baby.
Peripartum cardiomyopathy complications for the mother include:
Your baby can also suffer from hypoxia, which means they can't get enough oxygen.
There is no surefire way to prevent PPCM.
It's crucial to tell your doctor if you have a history of heart damage or you've had PPCM in the past. That way, they can watch for any early signs.
Also, you can take these steps to keep your heart healthy and reduce your risk:
At the Magee-Womens Heart Program, our cardiologists:
The symptoms of peripartum cardiomyopathy are like those you might have late in a normal pregnancy. That can make this condition hard to detect, or it might cause you to delay going to the doctor.
Common symptoms of PPCM are:
Many women don't have symptoms until after their baby is born.
Call your doctor right away if you have any of these symptoms during or after your pregnancy.
To diagnose PPCM, your doctor may:
Your doctor may order an echocardiogram to see how well your heart is pumping blood. This painless test uses sound waves to create pictures of your heart.
Your doctor will diagnose peripartum cardiomyopathy if:
Treatment goals for PPCM are to relieve any symptoms you may have and protect the health of you and your baby.
You may need to stay in the hospital until your symptoms are better and your condition improves.
Doctors often use drugs to treat PPCM that can:
Your doctor will tell you whether or not you'll need medications for the long term.
They may also ask you to wear a vest that tracks your heart rhythm and prevents dangerous irregular heart rhythms.
Your doctor might also urge you to make certain lifestyle changes to help your heart work better, such as:
Make sure to talk with your doctors about future pregnancies. Another pregnancy may be dangerous to you and your future baby if your heart isn't strong enough.
There are many safe and effective forms of birth control you can use with PPCM.
Many women fully recover or remain stable and healthy for a long time with the help of medicines and lifestyle changes. But in some women, their heart function can remain weak or get worse with time.
If your heart becomes too damaged, you may need mechanical support. These devices help your heart pump blood to the rest of your organs or prevent life-threatening heart rhythms.
These might include an:
A small percent of women with severe PPCM need a heart transplant.