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Cardiac Concern – The Importance of Diagnosing Heart Disease in Pregnant Women

heart disease in pregnant women

For women with peripartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM), diagnosis soon after giving birth leads to better outcomes than for women whose symptoms are not recognized or treated by their physician.

During the 2019 Scientific Sessions sponsored by the American Heart Association (AHA), participants discussed the danger of PPCM and the elevated risk to African-American women during the post-partum period.

PPCM is a type of heart disease that afflicts pregnant women toward the end of their pregnancy and into the post-partum period.  The condition is characterized by a weakening of the heart muscle as the valves of the heart enlarge.  Less oxygenated blood leaves the heart to meet the needs of internal organs and tissue.

Some of the symptoms of PPCM are similar to what a pregnant woman might experience as she nears the end of pregnancy, including fatigue, shortness of breath, swollen legs and feet, and increased urination at night, among other symptoms.

During the AHA sessions, researchers discussed points about PPCM including:

  • About one in 2000 pregnant women in the US suffer from PPCM. Medications, existing heart disease, obesity, previous pregnancy, gestational high blood pressure, and African-American descent are some of the risk factors for the condition.
  • For those who suffer the condition, 60 to 70 percent eventually return to normal cardiac function. For others, the result can be severe chronic heart disease that may require an implanted assistive device, or even a heart transplant.
  • Studies show that women diagnosed with PPCM more than a month after they deliver are less likely to recover full cardiac function than those diagnosed late in pregnancy or very early in the post-partum period.

In a retrospective study of 220 women who suffered from PPCM, researchers found that a majority of white women who experienced PPCM symptoms were diagnosed within one week of delivering their child.  African-American women suffering from hypertensive disorders or PPCM were more routinely diagnosed between one and five months into the post-partum period—and later.

Monitoring all women for PPCM is critically important.  Notes study author, Dr. Zoltran Arany, at University of Penn, “While we are still investigating the factors–such as genetics and socioeconomic status–that lead to later diagnosis in this population, we hope our findings help to increase awareness of the need for proactive monitoring.”

Welcoming a child to the world is the event of a lifetime.  If you are injured by poor prenatal or post-partum care, speak with our lawyers about your concerns.

Speak with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer today

The law firm of Schochor, Federico and Staton, P.A. represents patients hurt by medical mistake across the country from offices in Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, DC.  We offer a free consultation to discuss your case.  Contact us online or call 410-234-1000 today.

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