PPCM stands for PeriPartum CardioMyopthy. PPCM is heart failure that occurs during the last month of pregnancy and up to six months after delivery. Many women report experiencing symptoms well before the last month of pregnancy and some women are not diagnosed until up to a year after delivery.
In western countries, PPCM occurs in 1 in every 2500-3000 pregnancies. In Haiti, the frequency of occurrence is far higher, occurring in 1 in every 650 pregnancies.
In the past, many doctors relied on risk factors when a women presented with symptoms, but over the years, these risk factors have not proven to be indicative of illness. We do know that African-American women do seem to be at increased risk for this illness, but we are unsure why at the moment.
As opposed to other forms of heart failure, PPCM does allow for a complete recovery. In fact, when diagnosis occurs quickly and the correct medication is started, over 90% of the women diagnosed fully recover. Many even go on to have more children without issue in subsequent pregnancies.
For other women, recovery appears elusive. Some will live their lives in chronic heart failure, others require heart transplants, and others lose their lives leaving behind their young child(ran).
I am extremely experienced with PPCM. It is a personal experience for me. I displayed extreme symptoms of heart failure during my first pregnancy, but due to my age, was brushed aside. It wasn't until my third pregnancy when I finally received an echocardiogram that had been booked prior to my pregnancy. It showed that I was in heart failure.
That echocardiogram occurred over 18 years ago. I've never recovered, but I'm still here and fighting.
Symptoms of heart failure can mimic normal pregnancy symptoms, but they have increased severity. They include swelling above the ankles, difficulty breathing, unable to lay flat, palpitations, etc.
If you or a friend feel you might have PPCM, you can use the self-check list found at https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peripartum_cardiomyopathy under the Diagnosis tab.