Peripartum Cardiomyopathy

Birth injuries can occur both to the infant and the mother. These injuries include conditions that, if not managed properly, may lead to serious consequences.

Cardiomyopathy is a term that refers to a heart muscle disease. Peripartum cardiomyopathy typically refers to heart muscle disease that occurs at some point between the month prior to birth and up to six months after birth. It normally impacts the mother, but it can negatively affect the unborn infant as well.

Diagnosis and Complications

Properly identifying the condition can be a challenge. Many of the symptoms are similar to those experienced by the average pregnant woman, so there is a risk of misdiagnosis by the medical team. Symptoms of peripartum cardiomyopathy include:

  • Fatigue
  • Racing or skipping heart beats (e.g. heart palpitations)
  • Increased nighttime urination
  • Shortness of breath (even when lying flat)
  • Swelling of the ankles
  • Lightheadedness
  • Symptoms related to a blood clot

Complications

Peripartum cardiomyopathy generally involves a swelling of the heart’s left ventricle. Some women recover completely, while others experience a slow decline. In rare cases, the decline can be rapid and may require aggressive steps, including the possibility of a heart transplant.

Some studies indicated that approximately 50% of those diagnosed with peripartum cardiomyopathy will resume normal cardiac functions. However, in cases where the mother’s heart has not fully recovered, an additional pregnancy could severely compromise the health of the mother, which in turn could harm the developing fetus.

If you experience any of the above symptoms, you should speak with your physician. A number of tests may be required to effectively diagnose your condition. Remember, there is a risk of misdiagnosis due to the overlap in symptoms normally experienced during pregnancy.

Some of those exams may include:

  • Blood tests to evaluate various levels and conditions of other organs
  • Chest X-ray
  • CT scan
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
  • Echocardiogram
  • Heart catheterization
  • Other imaging such as an MRI

Possibility of Future Pregnancies

An ongoing question for many women who have experienced this condition is whether they will be able to handle additional pregnancies. This is a valid concern, because there is a strong chance the same problems will occur during future pregnancies. For this reason, you should discuss the issues with your physician.

If the mother’s heart has recovered from the cardiomyopathy, another pregnancy may be safe as long as the mother is closely monitored prior to and during the pregnancy. This monitoring can include echocardiograms and stress tests at the doctor’s discretion.

Birth injury cases require experienced attorneys, because medical malpractice lawsuits are extremely complex, both in Kentucky and elsewhere. The Law Firm of Jack Tolliver, MD & Associates, PLLC urges anyone who suspects that they may have been a victim of substandard medical treatment to contact a law firm to evaluate their potential case. There are specific time limits involved, so it’s always advantageous to have your lawyer engaged in the process as early as possible. Remember that it takes time to properly evaluate and prepare to file a lawsuit.

The best way for victims to ensure other families don’t have to experience similar circumstances is to hold doctors and hospitals accountable for critical errors in medical treatment. You and your family can play a role in helping us improve our healthcare system so that the primary focus of the medical field remains on the long-term health of the patient.

Together, we can help improve the policies and procedures that impact families across Kentucky.

 

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