You May Be at Risk for Postpartum Cardiomyopathy

Know the risks, signs, and symptoms in a country (U.S.) with increasing maternal mortality rates.

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Did you know that after giving birth, you could be at risk for cardiomyopathy—a condition of the heart muscle that makes it difficult for your heart to pump blood throughout your body? This is a serious condition that can lead to chronic heart failure and, if not treated quickly enough, it can lead to death. Unfortunately, heart failure is the cause of 25% of maternal deaths in the United States (Martin & Montagne, 2017).

 Though we do not know the exact cause of pregnancy-related cardiomyopathy, some linked issues appear to be poor nutrition or nutrient deficiencies, viral infection and poor immunity, excessive inflammation, high blood pressure, poor circulation, the presence of your baby’s cells in your body (outside of the uterus), drastic hormonal changes, and genetics (Mubarik et al, 2020). The highest incidences of postpartum cardiomyopathy are seen in African American women. You are also at a greater risk for developing the condition if you over the age of 40 and have had multiple pregnancies. 

Recognize the Signs and Call for Help

What are some of the warning signs that you might be experiencing cardiomyopathy after giving birth? When should you seek emergency assistance? According to the American Heart Association, you should get help immediately if at any point after birth you experience:

  • Severe and sudden chest pain, particularly after meals or strenuous exercise

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

  • Feeling like your heart is racing

  • Swelling of your legs, feet, belly, or neck veins

  • Fainting, dizziness, and light-headedness

Keep in mind that these conditions can appear up to a year after giving birth. So if you experience any of these symptoms at any point after your labor and delivery to get help immediately.

Know Your Treatment Options

If you develop cardiomyopathy after giving birth, treatment for the condition is usually supportive and works to manage the symptoms associated with heart failure (Mubarik et al, 2020). These can include:

  • Medications such as diuretics to remove the excess water from the body; anticoagulants to prevent blood clots; electrolyte replenishment that help maintain fluid levels, acid-base balance, and to keep muscle and nerve functioning; antiarrhythmics to help the heart beat regularly; and beta-1 selective blockers and calcium channel blockers to lower blood pressure and heart rate.

  • Various procedures, designed to improve circulation and reduce the workload on the heart.

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To read more about postpartum cardiomyopathy visit https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK534770/.


References:

Martin, N. & Montagne Renee. (2017, August 17). Many nurses lack knowledge of health risks to mothers after childbirth. NPR. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/08/17/543924405/many-nurses-lack-knowledge-of-health-risks-for-mothers-after-childbirth#

Mubarik, A., Chippa, V, & Iqbal AM. Postpartum Cardiomyopathy. [Updated 2020 Aug 26]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK534770/