A rare heart disorder that can fell new mothers
Peripartum cardiomyopathy is a rare and incompletely understood form of heart failure that strikes apparently otherwise healthy women during the last month of pregnancy or the first five months after they give birth. Because so few women -- an estimated 1 in 1,300 to 4,000 live births -- contract the disease, it's been difficult for medical researchers to get a handle on what causes it and how to treat it.
Nor can they confidently predict whether a woman will survive: Here's a story about one who did.
If all other treatment options fail, a woman with peripartum cardiomyopathy may require a heart transplant. And women who have suffered this heart failure are strongly discouraged from becoming pregnant again. Those who recover may still suffer some degree of heart damage.
Here's an on-line support group that's working to raise awareness of the condition with the goal of helping doctors recognize its symptoms -- which typically mimic those of uncomplicated pregnancy, such as shortness of breath and swollen ankles -- early. Quick diagnosis and treatment may improve outcomes for some women.
Jennifer LaRue Huget
| December 10, 2010; 11:33 AM ET
Categories: Cardiovascular Health, Motherhood, Pregnancy, Reproductive Health, heart failure
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