Healing heart...

3 min read

My pregnancy was healthy and uneventful.  My BP, which is usually low, started to go up in the final 2-3 weeks of pregnancy, but it was still well within the normal range and urine tests showed no proteins or other signs of preeclampsia so my doctors weren't concerned.  I delivered a big and healthy baby boy via c-section after a long labor (he just wouldn't fit!) and went home after the requisite 4 days as I seemed to be healing as expected.  My BP was still slightly high for me and my legs were very swollen (which they hadn't been in pregnancy) but they had pumped me full of so many fluids during labor and delivery that the doctors just said my body needed time to flush out all the fluids. After three days at home, I woke up in the middle of the night and I couldn't breathe very well.  After a few phone calls back and forth my OB told me to go to the ER.  And thus began this frightening journey. In the ER, my heart rate was very high and my oxygenation was in the high 80s.  They admitted me to the cardiac ICU for monitoring. The next morning, I had an echo, and my EF was 47. They started me on diuretics to bring all the fluids off. And I received the scary PPCM diagnosis. It was heartreaking to be away from my baby.  I was in the hospital for 5 days. Thankfully, I was able to pump to save my milk and send it home for my baby. I'm interested that so many women on here were told they couldn't breast feed.  Thankfully, my doctors were very supportive of my desire to breastfeed and prescribed me medications that are safe.  I'm on a very low dose beta blocker and very low dose ACE inhibitor, both of which have been studied and shown to be safe during breast feeding.  Also, my cardiologist confirmed that there is not good evidence that prolactin is harmful so that breastfeeding is fine, and might even be protective.  My baby is 6 months and I'm still exclusively breast feeding. So, for women with PPCM who want to breast feed and are told they can't, I would suggest you get another opinion!

After my 5 days in the hospital I came home and resumed recovering from a c-section, adjusting to being a first time mom, and processing my experience.  I vacillated from terror to disbelief to confidence I would get better.  After all, I've never been sick, had no previous heart problems (and had a totally healthy echo 6 years ago!), have no family history of heart problems, and am thin, healthy, active, vegetarian, etc...I just couldn't believe it. Then I would have moments of total darkness and fear, where I would imagine my heart slowly getting worse and dying and leaving my new son.  It was definitely the first time I'd really had to confront my own mortality in any real way. There were some very overwhelming and scary moments. Slowly, over the past 6 months, I've shifted away from obsessing about my heart and my health to trying to resume my normal life. I had a cardiac MRI about 6 weeks after my diagnosis, which thankfully showed normal EF (50), no scarring, normal heart size, and normal heart function. All my doctors concurred my case was very mild, luckily. I am due to have a follow up echo this month (now almost 7 months post partum).  I feel totally normal with no symptoms at all, so hopefully it will be normal. I'm still on my medications but my doctor says I can go off after my heart function has been normal for a year.  That seems like a long time to be on meds when my heart is back to normal, but I will trust my doctor, and I'm on tiny doses so hopefully there are no adverse effects.

My newest struggle is that I've always wanted two kids, and now I am faced with having to decide whether to attempt a 2nd pregnancy.  I would wait at least a year anyway, but I'm an older mom and need to move things along if that's what I want.  I just don't know if it's worth the risk.  Chances are things would be fine, but what if they aren't? Do others of you struggle with this as well?

All in all, I am happy that I appear to be healing and will just try to be grateful for that, and for my beautiful, healthy son.

My Details

  • Date Diagnosed: 14/04/2016
  • Child: 1
  • Initial EF: 47
  • Current EF: 58

Story By Amy West

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I have a hard time finding another story quite like mine no matter how hard I look. I was 26 and pregnant with my second

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