Peripartum Cardiomyopathy | Heart Failure Symptoms | MedStar Health

Heart failure that can develop during or soon after pregnancy

During the last trimester of pregnancy, and up to six months after delivery, the heart chambers can enlarge and the heart muscle may become weak, causing peripartum cardiomyopathy, a rare type of heart failure.

Our advanced heart failure program provides innovative and advanced treatment to give you the most effective options. Most patients with peripartum cardiomyopathy recover most or all of their heart function.

Symptoms and risk factors

Heart failure symptoms may be difficult to recognize because they are similar to late-pregnancy symptoms. You may experience:

  • Edema, or swelling of the legs

  • Fatigue

  • Feeling out of breath

  • Heart palpitations, or the sensation that the heartbeat is skipping, slowing down, or racing

Your risk of peripartum cardiomyopathy may be increased if you are having twins or more, are African-American, or have high blood pressure.


Diagnosing peripartum cardiomyopathy is the first step to developing a treatment plan. Your doctor likely will recommend a variety of heart monitoring tests and imaging procedures to pinpoint your diagnosis.

Angiogram (Angiography)

An angiogram is a special X-ray taken as a special dye is injected through a thin, flexible tube called a catheter to detect blockages or aneurysms in blood vessels.

Cardiac catheterization

Cardiac catheterization is a minimally invasive way to diagnose and treat a variety of heart and vascular conditions by guiding thin, flexible tubes called catheters through blood vessels to problem areas.

Carotid duplex ultrasound

Carotid duplex ultrasound uses Doppler and traditional ultrasound to assess blood flow in the arteries that supply blood to your brain.

Chest X-ray

Chest X-rays use a small dose of radiation to create pictures of the structures inside the chest, including the lungs, heart, and chest wall.

Computerized tomography (CT) scan

The cardiac computed tomography scan, or cardiac CT, uses X-rays to create three-dimensional images of your heart and blood vessels.


An echocardiogram uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of your heart.

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

An electrocardiogram, also known as an ECG, measures the heart’s electrical activity.

Heart biopsy

In a heart biopsy, your doctor will remove small samples of your heart muscle tissue to monitor heart function or diagnose a problem.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

Magnetic resonance imaging, better known as cardiac MRI, uses a combination of radio waves, magnets, and computer technology to create images of your heart and blood vessels.

Stress tests

Stress tests are used to assess how your heart works during physical activity. There are several types of stress tests, including treadmill or bike stress tests, nuclear stress tests, stress echocardiograms, and chemically induced stress tests.


Our heart and vascular teams work together and with other specialties to develop and implement individualized plans for women with peripartum cardiomyopathy. This could include lifestyle modifications, medication, or more advanced treatments, such as surgery.

Heart failure treatment

Treatments for heart failure, such as medications, surgery, and mechanical devices, vary based on the cause and severity of your condition.

Left ventricular assist device (LVAD)

A left ventricular assist device (LVAD) helps the heart pump blood more effectively during end-stage heart failure.

Additional information

Advanced heart failure program

Partner with leaders in the field to manage and treat your heart failure and help you maximize your quality of life.

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