Background: Peripartum cardiomyopathy is a rare and sometimes fatal form of heart failure. Little is known about the outcomes of subsequent pregnancies in women who have had the disorder.
Methods: Through a survey of members of the American College of Cardiology, we identified 44 women who had had peripartum cardiomyopathy and had a total of 60 subsequent pregnancies. We then reviewed the medical records of these women and interviewed the women or their physicians.
Results: Among the first subsequent pregnancies in the 44 women, 28 occurred in women in whom left ventricular function had returned to normal (group 1) and 16 occurred in women with persistent left ventricular dysfunction (group 2). The pregnancies were associated with a reduction in the mean (+/-SD) left ventricular ejection fraction both in the total cohort (from 49+/-12 percent to 42+/-13 percent, P<0.001) and in each group separately (from 56+/-7 percent to 49+/-10 percent in group 1, P=0.002; and from 36+/-9 percent to 32+/-11 percent in group 2, P=0.08). During these pregnancies, a decrease of more than 20 percent in the left ventricular ejection fraction occurred in 21 percent of the women in group 1 and 25 percent of those in group 2, and symptoms of heart failure occurred in 21 percent of the women in group 1 and 44 percent of those in group 2. The mortality rate was 0 percent in group 1 and 19 percent in group 2 (P=0.06). In addition, the frequency of premature delivery was higher in group 2 (37 percent vs. 11 percent), as was that of therapeutic abortions (25 percent vs. 4 percent).
Conclusions: Subsequent pregnancy in women with a history of peripartum cardiomyopathy is associated with a significant decrease in left ventricular function and can result in clinical deterioration and even death.