Peripartum cardiomyopathy: definition, incidence, etiopathogenesis, diagnosis, and management

Cardiol Rev. 2015 Mar-Apr;23(2):69-78. doi: 10.1097/CRD.0000000000000038.


Peripartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM) is a serious pregnancy-associated disorder of unknown etiology. The precise cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying PPCM are unclear. A heightened awareness among health care providers can result in early diagnosis of heart failure in late pregnancy and the early postpartum period. Though the symptoms of dyspnea and fatigue can result from normal physiologic changes during pregnancy, an electrocardiogram and brain natriuretic peptide level should be obtained in these patients, in addition to baseline laboratory tests such as a complete blood count, and basic metabolic and hepatic function panels. If the electrocardiogram and brain natriuretic peptide level are abnormal, an echocardiogram should be obtained. The role of endomyocardial biopsy for the diagnosis of PPCM is controversial. Patients should be started on diuretics if volume overloaded, and beta-blockers (preferably metoprolol) if no contraindications exist; angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers should be avoided during pregnancy or lactation. There are no standard, universally accepted guidelines for the management of PPCM. Although experimental therapies like bromocriptine, pentoxifylline and immunoglobulins have shown promising results, large double-blind randomized trials are essential to confirm the results of smaller studies. In patients with persistent severe left ventricular (LV) dysfunction, advanced therapies like mechanical circulatory support and heart transplantation should be considered. Owing to recent data demonstrating deterioration of LV systolic function after initial recovery, it is essential to maintain long-term follow up of these patients regardless of initial recovery of LV function. We present a comprehensive review of the literature etiopathogenesis, diagnosis, and management of PPCM.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiomyopathies* / blood
  • Cardiomyopathies* / diagnosis
  • Cardiomyopathies* / epidemiology
  • Cardiomyopathies* / etiology
  • Cardiomyopathies* / physiopathology
  • Cardiomyopathies* / therapy
  • Cardiovascular Agents / pharmacology*
  • Disease Management
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Echocardiography
  • Electrocardiography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Natriuretic Peptide, Brain / blood
  • Peripartum Period*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Cardiovascular* / blood
  • Pregnancy Complications, Cardiovascular* / diagnosis
  • Pregnancy Complications, Cardiovascular* / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy Complications, Cardiovascular* / physiopathology
  • Pregnancy Complications, Cardiovascular* / therapy
  • Prognosis


  • Cardiovascular Agents
  • Natriuretic Peptide, Brain