Peripartum Cardiomyopathy: Causes, Signs and Symptoms


Peripartum Cardiomyopathy is a kind of heart failure which happens during pregnancy. It also sometimes occurs just after childbirth. This condition makes the heart muscles weak. It also enlarges the heart. In that way it cripples the heart’s ability to pump blood properly to the rest of the body.

According to American Heart Association, each year, about a thousand pregnant women undergoes this condition, in the United States. This disease is diagnosed during the last five months of the delivery. However, there are certain factors which trigger such condition. You need to check out for those when you are pregnant.

Causes of Peripartum Cardiomyopathy:

Normally, your heart pumps fifty percent more blood when you are pregnant. This is because of the fact that your heart transfers oxygen and other nutrients to your child. A definitive cause of peripartum cardiomyopathy is yet to be determined. However, doctors believe that there are certain factors which trigger the risk of a heart failure whilst it is pumping more blood into the body.

The following factors increase the risk of the disease:

  • Obesity: It is a major cause of this kind of heart failure and any other kind of heart failure as well
  • High Blood Pressure: If you are already suffering from high blood pressure then the risk of the disease is more.
  • Diabetes: Diseases like diabetes often triggers the chances of such heart conditions.
  • Personal History of Heart Condition: Previous history of heart condition can also stimulate chances of such diseases.
  • Malnutrition: Malnutrition or lack of proper diet during pregnancy triggers such conditions.
  • Smoking: The bad habit of smoking often sets the ideal platform for this kind of disease.
  • Alcoholism: Your alcohol addiction will also not help you in the cause of avoiding such fatal disease.
  • Multiple Pregnancies: If you had been unsuccessfully pregnant a number of times, before, then the chances of disease occurring to you also increase.
  • Age Over 30: The chances of such fatal heart condition keeps on increasing if you get pregnant after 30 years of age.
  • Premature Delivery Medicines: If you are taking premature delivery medicines, then chances are that it will affect your heart. So that can be considered as triggering cause.

Peripartum Cardiomyopathy

Signs & Symptoms of Peripartum Cardiomyopathy:

There are certain signs and symptoms which will help you to detect the disease before and pursue medical attention.

  • You will have rapid heartbeat followed by palpitations, on occasions, during pregnancy.
  • There will sudden unexplained chest pains.
  • You will get fatigued quite easily.
  • Any sort of physical activity will make you feel tired. Normally pregnancy itself can exhaust you, but there will be patches of time where you won’t feel tired. However, if you are always tired then there are chances that your heart is at risk.
  • Shortness of breath is a very high indicator.
  • Swelled feet and ankles is a very common symptom.
  • An increased rate of urination, especially at night is also another clear indicator.

Diagnosis of Peripartum Cardiomyopathy:

There are various tests which can be conducted to check whether you are suffering from the disease or not. There is a variety of image testing which takes place to check the current condition of your heart. The image tests will also show whether or not you have probable lung damage.

  • X-ray of your chest is a must.
  • Sometimes medical professionals also seek CT scan reports of your heart.
  • There is also something called the nuclear heart scan. This is used to detect whether any of the chambers of your heart is blocked.
  • Sound wave tests to get a moving picture of your heart are also a modern test which takes place.

Treatments for Peripartum Cardiomyopathy:

If you feel that your heart is under such threat, during your pregnancy, then you must immediately consult your doctor. Under no circumstances you should take medication or undergo any therapy without consulting your doctor. There are few basic treatments which ensure that the heart stays steady throughout your pregnancy.

Some of the basic drugs include:

  • Beta Blockers: These are the drugs which are used for lowering blood pressure and improving the flow of blood in your system.
  • Digitalis: These drugs will help you strengthen your heart and improve the pumping and the circulatory functions.
  • Diuretics: These are the drugs that will help you lower your blood pressure and remove all the additional water and salt from your body.

Complications and Risks:

The complications and risks of Peripartum Cardiomyopathy are severe. It might even cause your death.

  • Arrhythmia: Peripartum Cardiomyopathy might cause arrhythmia in you. This is a long term impact, from which you will need time to recover.
  • Clotted Blood in Lungs: This is another risky outcome of the disease and will probably damage your lung for good.
  • Congestive Heart Failure: This is risky for both you and your precious little one. Heart failure is a definite possibility of this deadly symptom.
  • Death: Yes! The disease can cause your death along with your child’s. For that reason it is important that you try and prevent its occurrence.

Prevention Methods:

Prevention is better than cure. It is always true. For that reason, when you are trying to get pregnant, or you actually are, quit smoking and drinking alcohol. This will ensure a good health for you and your baby.

Also at the same time, if you have some pre-conditions which might trigger the disease, then try and add less salt in your meal. Salt tends to increase the chance of a high blood pressure and that is something you must avoid under all conditions.


You can also follow these simple prevention tips:

  • Mild exercises (after consulting with your doctor) keep your blood flow normal.
  • Low fat diets and fresh vegetables are good alternative to have as food.

Women who are once diagnosed with the disease are likely to have it again, during the later pregnancies. For that reason, if you are planning to get pregnant, try and maintain a healthy lifestyle which will ensure that you do not get affected.