About Peripartum Cardiomyopathy
Peripartum cardiomyopathy is a rare type of heart failure that indicates weakness of the heart muscle which normally occurs during late pregnancy or immediately after delivery. Although it occurs most commonly right after delivery. It is a rare condition that can carry mild or severe symptoms.
Due to the weakness of the heart muscle, the heart can’t pump blood properly to the rest of the body. Some affected patients recover only part of their heart function over a period of months, while for others, the heart returns to full strength in as little as two to three weeks.
Causes of Peripartum Cardiomyopathy
The underlying cause of this pregnancy induced heart failure is undefined. Heart biopsies in some cases show women have inflammation in the heart muscle. The reason could be because of prior viral illness or abnormal immune response.
There are hence no definitive cause of peripartum cardiomyopathy. However, Other potential causes include poor nutrition, defective antioxidant defenses, coronary artery spasm and small-vessel disease. Genetics may also play a vital role. Specialists also believe that this condition occurs when there is an additional stress on the heart as a result of extra pumping of blood combines with other risk factors.
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Diagnosis for Peripartum Cardiomyopathy
In a case of severe cardiomyopathy, a patient experiences acute shortness of breath and has swollen feet after delivery. Fluid can accumulate in the body when the heart doesn’t pump well, most noticeably in the lungs and the feet. An echocardiogram can detect the cardiomyopathy by showing the diminished functioning of the heart.
Where as in a mild case of peripartum cardiomyopathy, visible symptoms such as swelling in the feet and legs, and not-so-severe shortness of breath can be similar to the symptoms of the third trimester of a normal pregnancy, so these symptoms may go undiagnosed. The patient may recover without medical attention.
Explained below is what to look out for when you suspect peripartum cardiomyopathy and are headed to the doctors for an examination:
For physical examination, your Doctor will review your symptoms and perform a physical examination. A device called a stethoscope may be used to help the doctor listen for crackling noises in the lungs and abnormal sounds in the heart. Your doctor will also check your blood pressure. It may be lower than normal.
A variety of imaging tests can measure your heart. These tests also determine the rate of blood flow. Some of these imaging tests can also view potential lung damage. These tests may include:
- X-ray of the entire chest
- CT scan for detailed pictures of the heart
- Nuclear heart scan to show heart chambers
- Sound waves to create moving pictures of the heart (echocardiogram)
In addition, the medical history of the patient could be used to determine her status, which has to do with a ‘record of existing heart condition’.
Therefore, a patient may be diagnosed with peripartum cardiomyopathy when:
- The heart is found to be enlarged;
- Symptoms of heart failure are seen
- There is retention of fluid especially in the lungs
Symptoms of Peripartum Cardiomyopathy
Symptoms may include;
- Feeling of heart racing or skipping beats (palpitations).
- Increased urination at night (nocturia).
- Shortness of breath especially when lying down flat or engaging in certain activities.
- Swelling of the ankles and feet.
- Swollen neck veins.
- Low blood pressure.
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Treatment of Peripartum Cardiomyopathy
In the case of treating peripartum cardiomyopathy, the goal is to restrain extra fluid accumulation in the lungs, as well as to ensure that the heart is stabilized and headed for possible full recovery.
There are several kinds of medications a physician can prescribe to treat symptoms. These medications include:
ACE inhibitors (angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors) may be given after delivery to relax the smooth muscle around the blood vessels, to reduce the workload on the heart, and to reduce blood volume, making it easier for the heart to work.This helps the heart use the strength that it has to work more efficiently. Unfortunately, A mother treated with ACE inhibitors will no longer be able to breast feed.
Beta blockers: This treatment entails regulating the rate at which the heart beats, causing the heart to beat more slowly so that it has a greater chance to recover.
Diuretics: (Also known as water tablet) This helps to reduce the build-up of any fluid on the lungs or the ankles by encouraging the kidneys to get rid of water as urine.
This type of heart failure has since been reported across a wide range of age groups. Risk factors include:
- Multiple pregnancies
- History of cardiac disorders, such as myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle)
- Use of certain medications.
- African-American descent.
- Poor nourishment.
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Preventive Measures Against Peripartum Cardiomyopathy
Ensure you eat a well balanced diet and get regular exercise to keep your heart strong. You will likely be advised by your Doctor to avoid getting pregnant again if you had a case of heart failure during a previous pregnancy. In addition, it is generally advised that everyone should avoid cigarettes and alcohol inorder to maintain a strong and healthy heart.