Heart failure is not common after delivery but can occur due to different conditions like valvular heart disease, uncontrolled hypertension etc. Postpartum cardiomyopathy, that can occur during the last month of pregnancy or up to five months after giving birth is one of the most important causes. . About one in every 2,000 to 3,000 pregnant women develops heart failure after giving child birth and it is a devastating illness.
What Causes the Weakening of the Heart in Pregnancy?
There is weakening of the heart muscles which causes the heart to become enlarged. As a result, the heart can’t pump blood properly to the rest of the body. This affects the lungs, liver, and other body systems. During pregnancy the heart already pumps up to 50 percent more blood to provide more oxygen and nutrients to the growing baby. Any additional risk factor like obesity, multiple pregnancy, age more than 30 years, previous history of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, smoking, alcoholism and malnutrion pose additional stress for the heart and may predispose to heart failure.
Signs and Symptoms associated with Postpartum Cardiomyopathy:
Symptoms may include:
Rapid heartbeat (palpitations)
Shortness of breath
Swelling of the feet or ankles
Increased urination at night.
Investigations to detect Postpartum Cardiomyopathy:
Investigations include electrocardiogram, echocardiography which measures the ejection fraction of the heart (pumping capacity) and chest X Ray.