Cardiomyopathy Pregnancy and Cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy can happen during or after pregnancy. It most often happens late in pregnancy or a few months after you give birth to your baby. This is called peripartum cardiomyopathy.

Cardiomyopathy during pregnancy is serious, but it is not common. The condition affects about 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 4,000 pregnant women in the United States.

Doctors are not sure what causes cardiomyopathy during pregnancy. If you already have cardiomyopathy, pregnancy can make it worse. However, women who have cardiomyopathy without any complications can have safe pregnancies.

Many pregnant women recover completely, but some can have serious, long-term, or life-threatening complications. Possible complications include blood clots, an irregular heartbeat, stroke, and heart failure.

Talk to your doctor about your risk and what you can do to help manage your heart health during and after pregnancy.

What raises my risk during or after pregnancy?

Your risk may be higher if you:

  • Are older than 35 or very young, although cardiomyopathy can happen in pregnant women at any age
  • Are African American
  • Have or have had high blood pressure during pregnancy (preeclampsia)
  • Do not get enough nutrients through diet or prenatal vitamins that your body needs during pregnancy
  • Have existing health conditions, such as infections, obesity, and autoimmune diseases
  • Are pregnant with more than one baby (twins, triplets, or more) or have had many previous pregnancies
  • Smoke or drink a lot of alcohol
  • Take medicines that can damage your heart

Symptoms of pregnancy-related cardiomyopathy

If you have cardiomyopathy during or soon after pregnancy, you may have symptoms of heart failure, such as shortness of breath, extreme tiredness, and fluid buildup in your legs. Because these symptoms can be similar to normal pregnancy symptoms, some women may not realize that they have this condition. This can delay diagnosis and treatment. It is important to talk to your doctor if you have any symptoms or if your pregnancy symptoms get worse.

Diagnosing and treating pregnancy-related cardiomyopathy

Your doctor may screen you for cardiomyopathy if you had this condition with a previous pregnancy. You may need to see a heart specialist (cardiologist), a doctor who specializes in high-risk pregnancies (maternal-fetal specialist), and a doctor who specializes in newborns with health problems (neonatologist).

Your healthcare team will watch you closely during and after your pregnancy. Your team will make sure that your diagnostic tests and treatments are safe for you and for your baby.

If your cardiomyopathy causes low oxygen levels during pregnancy, this may cause complications with your baby. If your condition is serious during pregnancy, you may need to deliver your baby early. Your doctor will talk with you about which type of delivery is safest for you and your baby.

Your doctor will tell you whether it is safe for you to breastfeed your baby while you are having certain tests and treatments. If your symptoms are serious or you have complications after delivery, your doctor may ask you not to breastfeed your baby because breastfeeding can cause added stress on your body.

Avoiding future problems

If you develop cardiomyopathy with one pregnancy, you have a risk of having this condition again with another pregnancy. This risk is higher if you still have symptoms or complications of cardiomyopathy. Talk to your doctor about whether it is safe for you to have another pregnancy.

If you have cardiomyopathy, some types of birth control can raise your risk of a blood clot. Talk to your doctor about which type of birth control is right for you.

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