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A surprising Post-Partum Diagnosis: Heart Failure

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What should have been one of the happiest times in Amy Cooper’s life wasn’t quite going as planned. Six weeks after she gave birth to Jackson and Benjamin, she felt terrible and continued to feel worse instead of better. Her symptoms included fatigue, nausea, shortness of breath, high blood pressure, and a feeling of fullness. Back at work following the end of her maternity leave, she could barely make it down the hall without having to stop and catch her breath.


Tearfully, Amy finally visited the emergency department seeking help. A scan revealed she had an enlarged heart and that it was only functioning at 15 to 20 percent. She was immediately admitted to Wake Forest Baptist Health for cardiology and diagnosed as suffering from peripartum cardiomyopathy.


Peripartum cardiomyopathy is an uncommon disorder usually diagnosed within the last month of pregnancy or within five months after having given birth. The heart is damaged and incapable of pumping blood efficiently, which affects how other parts of the body work.


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“An echocardiogram (ECHO), a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan and a heart biopsy gave us a detailed look at the structure function and tissue features of Amy's heart,” said Dr. VinayThohan, medical director of the Advanced Cardiac Care and Heart Transplant Program. “This information helps us correctly diagnose the cause of the congestive heart failure, whether it is viral or from some other source. What surprises person is that many changes in the heart can be reversed?”


Today, Amy has normal heart function. Amy’s treatment included taking diuretics, blood thinners, potassium and magnesium, as well as beta blockers and ace inhibitors. She remains on the beta blockers and ace inhibitors. After a year, she may be weaned off of those medicines gradually.


Since her diagnosis and treatment, Amy’s life has changed dramatically – beyond taking care of two young infants. She leads a healthy, active lifestyle, which has resulted in her losing about 63 pounds. She works full-time and serves on the organizing committee for the Heart and Stroke Walk for Wilkes County in North Carolina.


“I eat ‘heart healthy’ and I exercise,” she said. “I feel fabulous, the best I’ve felt in years.”



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