Peripartum Cardiomyopathy (PPCM) is a rare type of heart failure that occurs during pregnancy or right after delivery. It is also known as postpartum cardiomyopathy.  It usually occurs during the last month of pregnancy or up to 5 months after delivery.  The condition weakens the heart muscles and causes enlargement of the heart. Quick medical attention is essential to prevent any complications.The doctor may use a physical exam and various imaging tests  to diagnose this condition. A heart biopsy may be performed to find out the underlying cause but this is rarely done.


Peripartum Cardiomyopathy


What causes Peripartum Cardiomyopathy ?


The exact cause of this condition is unknown.  However it may be due to prior viral infection or abnormal immune system. Poor nutrition, coronary artery spasm, small-vessel disease, and defective antioxidant defenses may also play a part. Genetics may play a  role.


Who is at risk ?


Risk factors for this condition include :

  • obesity
  • smoking
  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • alcoholism
  • personal history  of heart disease including myocarditis
  • poor nutrition
  • use of certain medications
  • being over the age of 30
  • African-American descent
  • multiple pregnancy

Women who develop this condition during pregnancy are at high risk of getting it in the next pregnancy. If the heart remain enlarged after the baby is delivered, future pregnancies may result in heart failure.

What are the symptoms of peripartum cardiomyopathy ?


Symptoms are similar to heart failure  and include the following :

  • chest pains
  • rapid heart beat or palpitations
  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath
  • increased nighttime  urination
  • swelling of ankles and feet
  • swollen neck veins


What are my treatment options ?


Most women recover normal heart function, while  some progress to severe heart failure . Treatment options may depend on the severity of your condition. Pregnant women who develop this condition will stay in the hospital until symptoms have  subsided.


In severe  cases, the doctor may recommend a heart transplant or balloon heart pump. In most cases however, treatment involves controlling and managing symptoms.


These include medication to control your symptoms such as

  • beta-blockers: reduce blood pressure and improve blood flow by blocking the adrenaline hormone
  • digitalis:  strengthens the pumping ability of the heart
  • diuretics: reduce fluid retention
  • anticoagulant : to help thin blood


Patients may also need to follow a low salt diet to control blood pressure. They should also avoid alcohol and tobacco products completely  as these make symptoms worse.


Peripartum cardiomyopathy can affect you for the rest of your life. You will need regular checkup and follow ups.


How can i prevent Peripartum cardiomyopathy ?


Healthy lifestyle habits may reduce your  risk. This is especially important for first time moms.

  • stay active
  • avoid alcohol
  • do not smoke
  • eat low-fat diet


Peripartum cardiomyopathy can result in complications such as

  • blood clots particularly in the lung
  • arrhythmia
  • congestive heart failure
  • death



Content Sources
Peripartum Cardiomyopathy (PPCM). American heart Association. Accessed February 8, 2016

Peripartum Cardiomyopathy. Healthline. Accessed February 8, 2016

Peripartum cardiomyopathy. National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus. Accessed February 8, 2016

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