Pregnant Women Can Have Heart Muscle Abnormalities

By the time of delivery, some pregnant women can experience a weakened heart muscle. This condition is better known as peripartum cardiomyopathy. However, this condition rarely occurs. To better understand it, see the following explanation.

In general, cardiomyopathy can be divided into several types, namely hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, restrictive cardiomyopathy, ischemic cardiomyopathy, alcoholic cardiomyopathy, non-compacting cardiomyopathy, and peripartum cardiomyopathy that occurs in pregnant women.

This condition occurs when the heart muscles stretch and thin, causing the chambers in the heart to widen. As a result, the heart can not drain blood optimally.

If not treated immediately, peripartum cardiomyopathy and other types of cardiomyopathy can cause dangerous complications, such as irregular heartbeats, heart valve abnormalities, heart failure, and sudden cardiac arrest.

Introduction to Peripartum Cardiomyopathy

Peripartum cardiomyopathy is a rare heart muscle disorder. This condition usually occurs in late pregnancy, up to five months after delivery. If it occurs more than 6 months postpartum, the condition is called postpartum cardiomyopathy.

Until now, the exact cause of peripartum cardiomyopathy has not been found. Even so, this condition is believed to occur due to the performance of the heart muscle which becomes heavier during pregnancy.

During pregnancy, the heart muscle pumps up to 50 percent more blood. This is because the body has an additional burden in the form of a fetus that must get a supply of oxygen and other important nutrients. Pregnant women with peripartum cardiomyopathy will usually experience symptoms similar to those of heart failure, including extreme fatigue, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, and swelling of the legs and ankles.

Reduce the Risk of Peripartum Cardiomyopathy This Way

While you're pregnant, you can still reduce your risk of developing peripartum cardiomyopathy by avoiding the risk factors. Here are things you can do to prevent peripartum cardiomyopathy:

  • Monitor weight gain during pregnancy. Gaining too much weight can put additional strain or stress on the heart.
  • Stop smoking, consuming alcoholic beverages, and the use of certain drugs.
  • Meet the needs of nutritional intake during pregnancy by eating nutritious foods, including vegetables and fruits.
  • Get enough rest and avoid strenuous physical activity.
  • Manage stress well.
  • Regularly consult a gynecologist during pregnancy, especially if you have a history of certain diseases, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and a history of heart problems.
  • Take medication as prescribed by your doctor, if it is recommended.
  • Limit consumption of foods or drinks that contain salt (sodium), to keep blood pressure from being high.

In fact, women who have had peripartum cardiomyopathy are at increased risk of experiencing it again in a subsequent pregnancy. Therefore, doctors do not recommend women who have had peripartum cardiomyopathy to get pregnant again.