Pregnancy-induced heart disease?

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Discussing Peripartum Cardiomyopathy with Dr. David Bejar from MyCardiologist

David Bejar, MD, FACC

Pregnancy is not easy (mothers know best!), but did you know that pregnancy itself can cause heart disease? Let’s talk about a condition known as peripartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM).

What is peripartum cardiomyopathy and who is at risk?

While relatively rare, PPCM is a condition in which a woman can develop heart failure (i.e. a weakened heart) anywhere from the last trimester of pregnancy through the first few months after giving birth. The exact cause of the condition is not known, but we do know that certain women are particularly at risk of developing PPCM. Studies show that women of African descent, women of older maternal age, women with preeclampsia and/or high blood pressure before or during pregnancy, and women carrying multiple babies (i.e. twins or triplets) are at higher risk of PPCM. Another important risk factor is having had PPCM during a prior pregnancy.

What are the symptoms of peripartum cardiomyopathy?

It is important to know that many symptoms of PPCM are vague and easily confused for symptoms associated with normal pregnancy. They include fatigue, shortness of breath with activity, shortness of breath when lying flat, swelling of the legs, and chest tightness. Any of these symptoms occurring during or after pregnancy, especially if you have the risk factors mentioned previously, should prompt a woman to seek medical attention.

How is peripartum cardiomyopathy treated?

The good news is that PPCM can be treated and the majority of women with the condition make a full recovery! There are a number of medications that cardiologists can give to help strengthen a weakened heart and alleviate the symptoms of heart failure. For women who develop the condition while they are pregnant, close follow-up with a team of doctors including an obstetrician and cardiologist is the best approach. In most cases, women are able to deliver their babies with close supervision from a team of doctors. On the other side of the spectrum, for women with the most severe forms of PPCM, specialized care in the hospital and intensive care unit may be needed, including temporary artificial heart pumps or even heart transplantation. Thankfully, however, this is very rare.

Carrying a child is not only one of the most incredible things a human can do (go ladies!) but also one of the most challenging. Remember to pay attention to your body and get help if you’re not feeling well.

If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please call (305) 666-4633, text (786) 349-3129, or visit www.MyCardiologist.com.

David Bejar, MD, FACC is a board-certified cardiologist in South Florida focused on delivering patient-centered, evidence-based cardiovascular care of the highest quality. Dr. Bejar received his B.A. from Princeton University and M.D. from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and trained at some of the nation’s top hospitals in New York City. He is board certified in Cardiology, Echocardiography, and Nuclear Cardiology, and is a registered physician in vascular interpretation (RPVI).


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