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PPCM or Peripartum Cardiomyopathy is a weakening in the heart muscle causing an inability to pump the normal amount of blood flow to the organs and muscles. It occurs within the last month of pregnancy and the first six months post partum. In most cases, PPCM is referred to as congestive heart failure or CHF. It is also often named Post-partum cardiomyopathy - This is a result of the weakened heart muscle not being able to pump the fluids away, thus creating swelling and congestion in the body.

Peripartum cardiomyopathy shows no favoritism. The condition has been diagnosed in women of all ages. Some studies show that it may be more prominent in women above age 30 or of African American decent. It appears roughly in 1 in every 1300-4000 live births depending on geographical location.
The symptoms of PPCM include

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Excessive sweating
  • Swelling in the arms, face, legs and sometimes in the chest and abdomen
  • Palpitations (the feeling of your heart beat)
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive Fatigue
  • Cough (sometimes producing pinkish phlegm. PLEASE SEEK help if this happens.
  • Nausea and vomiting in severe cases

Women may experience one, all or none of these symptoms. It is often diagnosed as anxiety, baby blues, bronchitis or costochondritis (an inflammation of muscle and bone) when a patient presents symptoms of chest pain.

Your diagnosis should include the following tests:

EKG to measure the electrical waves of the heart. Many times if the heart weakens it loses its ability to produce a healthy rhythm causing arrythmias, which can be nothing, or can be deadly. The test is painless and useful.

Echocardiogram or Muga scan. The echocardiogram will be used to look inside the chest cavity to measure the actual heart muscle and take a rough reading of the Ejection Fraction or EF. This is done with basically the same procedure as an ultrasound is done when you are pregnant. A Muga scan is an injection of radioactive dye and a tracing with x-rays.

A Muga scan is more accurate in calculating your ejection fraction, while an echo shows the hearts structure and valves and can report damage to the actual muscle. Echos may not be the absolute most accurate, but they usually aren't far off on ejection fraction.

Your Ejection Fraction: Your ejection fraction is the amount of blood the heart forcefully pumps out into the body with each beat. A normal, healthy person’s heart has a typical ejection fraction of about 65-70%. Your numbers are important, but they don’t tell your chances of survival. Though normal is around 65%, most cardiologists look for you to reach 50% to be considered "recovered".

It use to be believed that if your heart was going to heal, it would do so in the first six months following diagnosis, however, people on our site have proven this to be totally incorrect - some people taking up to 4 years to gain their old heart function back, while others soaring to recovery within just a few weeks. The next best tell-tale sign in how you feel. You may have an ejection fraction of 10% and feel awesome, or you may have one of 50% and feel very run down. The causes could also be your heart medications. Seek your doctors advice regarding the way you feel.

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