Of all the different kinds of heart disorders, Peripartum Cardiomyopathy is one of the rarer types. Also called postpartum cardiomyopathy, this heart disease usually strikes towards the end of pregnancy or anytime in the 5 months after giving birth. Cardiomyopathy means ‘heart muscle disease’ and Peripartum Cardiomyopathy (PPCM) is a kind of heart failure.
What happens when you contract Peripartum Cardiomyopathy?
This condition makes the chambers of the heart enlarge, which causes the muscles of the heart to weaken. With each contraction, the heart is able to eject a smaller percentage of the blood than usual from the left ventricle. This results in a decline in the blood flow, which in turn, deprives the other organs, tissues and muscles of your body of the blood and oxygen they need to carry out their functions. This can have an especially detrimental effect on your lungs, kidneys and liver.
What are the symptoms of Peripartum Cardiomyopathy?
Peripartum Cardiomyopathy has some clear indications. Watch out for these symptoms once you near your due date –
Palpitations or the feeling of a racing heart or missed/skipped beats
Breathlessness after minor physical exertion, or when you are lying down
Feeling giddy when you sit up to stand up
Low blood pressure
Swelling of the ankle joints
Swelling of the legs and feet
Your neck veins may protrude
Diagnosis of Peripartum Cardiomyopathy
Sometimes peripartum cardiomyopathy is tricky to detect because many of its symptoms resemble the pain and discomfort of the last stages of pregnancy. However, doctors eventually hone in on it and recommend a few tests to confirm their suspicion that it is indeed a case of peripartum cardiomyopathy.
Firstly, your doctor will administer a test (echocardiogram) to determine the ejection fraction, which measures the percentage of the volume of blood your heart discharges with one beat. A healthy ejection percentage ranges between 55 and 70%. Anything below 45% would indicate peripartum cardiomyopathy.
Then there will be standard laboratory tests to determine the health of your liver, kidney and thyroid glands, a complete blood count. You will also have to undergo a physical examination during which your doctor will check for the presence of fluids in the lungs.
Treatment of Peripartum Cardiomyopathy
Peripartum cardiomyopathy is reversible. Its treatment consists of –
Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors
You will also be recommended a heart-friendly diet low on salt. If you smoke or drink, you would have to quit immediately.
Peripartum Cardiomyopathy can be quite dangerous but with the right medicines and food, it is curable.