Peripartum Cardiomyopathy is a Rare but Dangerous Heart Condition During Pregnancy

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Peripartum cardiomyopathy, or weakness in the heart muscle after pregnancy, is a rare but serious condition that can occur. It typically appears in the last month of pregnancy, or in the five months after delivery.

Peripartum cardiomyopathy develops when the chambers of the heart enlarge and weaken. The heart can no longer effectively pump blood, which leads to damage to the organs as well as fatigue and other issues.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women in the United States and can affect women of any age.

Peripartum Cardiomyopathy Symptoms and Diagnosis

Heart disease is often called the silent killer, because there are usually no symptoms. In pregnancy, detecting peripartum cardiomyopathy is difficult, because it mimics many of the normal signs of pregnancy. Those signs include swelling in the feet and legs, shortness of breath, fatigue or a feeling of a racing heart.

It is important to see your health care providers during your pregnancy for regular checkups. If you have abnormal swelling, increasing fatigue or other concerning symptoms, you may be developing peripartum cardiomyopathy. Your care team will check for fluid in the lungs, look at your lab test results and perform other evaluations to see if you may have peripartum cardiomyopathy.

Recovery from Heart Failure During Pregnancy

Many women recover from peripartum cardiomyopathy after delivery, with or without medications. In rare cases, a patient may have serious long-term effects of peripartum cardiomyopathy, such as blood clots, irregular heartbeat or stroke.

At the Norton Heart & Vascular Institute Women’s Heart Program, we offer highly specialized cardiovascular care before, during and after pregnancy. When needed, our multidisciplinary team of specialists works together with the Norton Heart & Vascular Institute Advanced Heart Failure and Recovery Program to offer treatment for peripartum cardiomyopathy that can often lead to recovery of normal heart function.  

To ensure you receive the highest level of care for you and your baby, our women’s cardiologists work closely with yourobstetrician, Norton Women’s Care specialists, as well as the complex pregnancy care providers at Norton Children’s Maternal-Fetal Medicine.

What to Expect at Norton Heart & Vascular Institute Women’s Heart Program

  • Specialized cardio-obstetrics expertise in preventing and caring for heart conditions focusing on the times surrounding pregnancy and menopause.
  • Comprehensive care for conditions that have unique risks and implications for women, including high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, ischemic heart disease and spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD).
  • Board-certified cardiologists with specialized experience and focus on women’s heart health are dedicated to serving as advocates for conditions that are often can go unrecognized.
  • The women’s heart health specialists are part of a team of providers dedicated to your health, including close collaboration with Norton Women’s Care and Norton Children’s Maternal-Fetal Medicine, providing high risk pregnancy care.
  • Medicare, Medicaid and most major commercial insurance plans accepted.
  • Book appointments, get alerts when an earlier appointment becomes available, communicate with your medical provider, refill prescriptions and more through your free Norton MyChart account.

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