We are fortunate to live in an age in which most pregnancies go well, and most mothers and babies leave the hospital healthy and happy. However, pregnancy related deaths still occur, and many are due to cardiovascular disease. Sadly, it appears that in as many as 8 out of 10 cases, death could have been prevented had the woman, her doctor, or both, paid greater attention to her health.
Cardiomyopathy, a weakening of the heart muscle, occurs in a small percentage of pregnancies, but researchers from the University of California Irvine found that the condition is more common in women with high blood pressure, obesity, or a history of substance abuse. Black women are also more likely to develop pregnancy related cardiomyopathy. As many as one in three women in the study who died of the condition ignored their symptoms or waited too long to see a doctor.
Symptoms can include shortness of breath, fluid retention, and generalized weakness. Cardiomyopathy can usually be readily diagnosed with an echocardiogram, or ultrasound of the heart.
As I told DailyRx.com, heart complications of pregnancy are often preventable and usually treatable. It’s important that pregnant women see their obstetricians regularly, and get referral to a high-risk OB when needed. Maintaining a healthy weight and making smart choices about diet and lifestyle are critical for all pregnant women. A cardiologist can be a valuable member of the team when high blood pressure and other heart-related conditions occur. You can read more about this study, and find my comments on DailyRx.com by following the link.