Dying During Delivery: Heart Failure Kills Moms-To-Be
CINCINNATI, Ohio, (Ivanhoe Newswire) - Finding out you're pregnant can be one of the most joyous times of a couple's life, but a potentially devastating disease affecting young, healthy women could take that all away. But there are some things that expectant mothers need to watch out for.
It's the call Dr. Stephanie Dunlap never wants to get.
"It's always my most anxious moment as a heart failure physician, because I have the chance to lose two patients instead of one," Dr. Stephanie Dunlap, Medical Director at the Heart Failure Program at the University of Cincinnati told Ivanhoe.
The moment that almost took Amanda Hodge's life at 28 and pregnant with her second child, something didn't feel right.
"Doctor after doctor kept saying, ‘you're pregnant honey, you're going to have swelling, you're going to have trouble breathing, you do get tired easy,'" Amanda Hodge, a woman who suffered heart failure at 28 told Ivanhoe.
At 24 weeks, her water broke. She was put on bed rest, and then three weeks later she underwent an emergency C-section, when her heart suddenly stopped beating. The cause? Peripartum cardiomyopathy, which is a form of heart failure that affects healthy women during the last months of pregnancy or up to five months after delivery. It happens in about one in every 3,500 pregnancies and 25 to 50 percent of affected women will die. Since the symptoms mimic pregnancy, it's often not diagnosed. But watch out if:
"You develop ankle swelling to the point you can stick your thumb in and leave a dimple that's two millimeters or more deep and you hear yourself wheezing and you're having to sit up at night to breathe," Dr. Dunlap said.
While Amanda's life was saved, baby Gideon Lew didn't make it. Now, Amanda wants to warn others about the condition.
"The fact that I'm here at all is an absolute miracle and I won't take that for granted," Amanda concluded.
Women who develop Peripartum Cardiomyopathy run a high risk of death with future pregnancies and doctors warn against trying to get pregnant again.
CAUSES: Peripartum cardiomyopathy occurs when there is damage to the heart. As a result, the heart muscle becomes weak and cannot pump blood efficiently. Decreased heart function affects the lungs, liver, and other body systems.
Peripartum cardiomyopathy is a form of dilated cardiomyopathy in which no other cause of heart dysfunction (weakened heart) can be identified.
In the United States, peripartum cardiomyopathy complicates 1 in every 1,300 - 4,000 deliveries. It may occur in childbearing women of any age, but it is most common after age 30. SOURCE: (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth)
SYMPTOMS: Symptoms are similar to those found in pregnancy: Fatigue, shortness of breath with activity and when laying flat, increased urination, a racing heart or palpitations, and swelling of the ankles.(www.mayoclinic.com)
PREVENTION: Since there is no known cause, prevention is difficult. The question of having additional children usually hinges on to what degree the mother has recovered from her peripartum cardiomyopathy.
IS IT SAFE TO HAVE MORE CHILDREN?:
The question of having additional children usually hinges on to what degree the mother has recovered from her peripartum cardiomyopathy.
If the heart does not completely recover its work capacity: Another pregnancy is generally not recommended. While there is no direct risk to the baby, going through an additional pregnancy with an abnormally functioning heart can cause additional heart damage for the mother, which could in turn harm the developing fetus.
If the heart has completely recovered from the previous pregnancy: An additional pregnancy can be attempted if the heart is periodically monitored with echocardiograms and stress tests. Echocardiograms check how the heart functions at rest and stress tests measure how the heart works under strain.
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