Most data comes from the United States, where it is estimated that PPCM exists in between one in 900 to one in 4000 births.
It is estimated that 50% of women who have PPCM had pre-eclampsia in their pregnancy, however this information is still being researched.
It is estimated that around 50-80% of women with PPCM will recover within the first six months of diagnosis, a figure which has improved substantially due to better recognition and treatment of PPCM.
Signs and Symptoms
It can be difficult to diagnose PPCM and typically it is a delayed diagnosis as many of the signs and symptoms are similar to that of normal changes to your body during pregnancy.
It is worth remembering that most women who have PPCM will develop the signs and symptoms within the first few months after giving birth.
Here are the signs and symptoms of PPCM:
- Shortness of breath
- Fluid retention and swelling around the legs
- Chest pain
- Abdominal discomfort due to swelling of the liver
- Low blood pressure (hypotension)
There are a number of risk factors which have been associated with PPCM, however it is still not yet clear how women contract PPCM.
Below are some suggested risk factors for PPCM:
- History of high blood pressure (hypertension)
- Older age in pregnancy
- Family history of cardiomyopathy
- Had previous pregnancies
Prevention and Support
Follow the links below to find out more about how you can help prevent and support loved ones who have experienced Peripartum Cardiomyopathy
What you need to know
PPCM is diagnosed in women typically in the final month of pregnancy and within the first five months after giving birth. Whilst it is a rare syndrome, there are many linked risk factors including: pre-eclampsia, higher maternal age (typically over 30) as well as carrying multiple babies such as twins.
Symptoms of PPCM include shortness of breath, fluid retention and swelling around the legs, palpitations, fatigue, chest pain, abdominal discomfort due to swelling of the liver and low blood pressure (hypotension).
Long-term, it is estimated that around 50% of women will recover and have a normal or close to normal heart pumping function.
Women who do not fully recover have an increased risk of reduced heart function if having further pregnancy.
Regardless of recovery, all subsequent pregnancies need to be carefully managed by a medical team often including cardiologists and obstetricians.
If you are already diagnosed with any Heart Disease, we recommend speaking with your doctor and treating team to learn more about daily management. Research suggests that attending a Secondary Prevention Program can decrease the chance of being admitted to hospital, reduce your complications as well increase survival rates. One suggestion is cardiac rehabilitation, as these programs will teach you more about your disease, help you recover, empower you to make lifestyle changes to improve heart health as well as reduce your risk of further problems. Click here to find your nearest cardiac rehabilitation program.
Your doctor may have recommended that you take some new medications if you have PPCM. This could be an overwhelming time for you, especially as learn all about your new medications as well as any considerations for taking them. Apart from having a discussion with your doctor and pharmacist, NPS Medicinewise has some great information on medication management, medication disposal as well as risk factors. They also have some great information about medications for your heart, which can be found here.
It’s not too late to start looking after your heart health, even after a diagnosis of RHD.
Here are some great and easy everyday strategies you can do to look after your heart health:
Don’t smoke, as quitting smoking can reduce your risk by 50% in one year. Quitline would be a great way to start your quitting smoking journey.
Stay active, 30 minutes per day of exercise, such as walking, can reduce your risk by 30% and delivers many positive health benefits. More information about exercise as well as a sample walking session can be found here.
Get some sleep, aim for 7-8 hours sleep and aim to try and unplug from your technology (e.g. iPad) one hour before bedtime. The Sleep Health Foundation has many great women’s focused sleep pages for all stages of your life such as your menstrual cycle, pregnancy, new mothers and menopause.
Eat healthy: ensure you watch portion sizes, eat healthy and nourishing foods such as: high fibre foods (including oats and legumes), two pieces of fruit and seven serves of vegetables, reduced salt, three serves of fish per week, reducing saturated fats (such as chicken with skin on, baked goods, fried foods) whilst choosing more lean proteins such as tofu and trimmed meats. The Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute has created some handy factsheets to help you choose correct portions, supermarket shopping, healthy snacks and eating out.
Relax: try and take some time out for yourself, keep connected with friends and family, perhaps try activities such as meditation to help manage your stress levels. Beyond Blue has a great page full of practical stress relieving tips, and it could be worth to try some meditations from apps such as Smiling Mind, Headspace and Calm.