41 of the 236 women were diagnosed with PPCM, putting the prevalence of the condition at 17%. When this figure was compared with literature from elsewhere, they found the condition affects one in 1000 pregnant women in South Africa, and one in 100 in DRC and Nigeria.
Pregnant Women are increasingly reporting a rare form of heart
disease during the last months of pregnancy and up to five months after
Scientifically named Peripartum cardiomyopathy, doctors in Mulago National
Referral Hospital and the Uganda Heart Institute (UHI) have said the condition
is now affecting seventeen in every hundred women reporting for care.
In their year-long study conducted together with researchers from
the Makerere University College of Health Sciences, the medics followed up 236
women aged 27-39 with features of acute heart failure that developed in the
last month of pregnancy or during the first five months after birth,
scientifically known as the peripartum period.
Participants in the study were confirmed once the prior history of
heart disease was excluded and not having other determinable causes for heart
disease and failures such as hypertension, birth defects of the heart and HIV.
Dr Juliet Nabbaale a cardiologist at UHI says that they performed
an ultrasound scan of the heart (echocardiogram) among all participants to
determine the function of the heart also called ejection fraction.
While a normal heart will pump at approximately 50% to 75% power
of the left chamber of the heart, they found those with the disease to be
pumping at low rates.
“The women we diagnosed with PPCM were found to have an ejection
fraction of less than 45%. This means their heart function had dropped,” she
41 of the 236 women were diagnosed with PPCM, putting the
prevalence of the condition at 17%. When this figure was compared with literature
from elsewhere, they found the condition affects one in 1000 pregnant women in
South Africa and one in 100 in DRC and Nigeria.
“The high burden of the condition warrants commitment of resources
by government to establish maternal cardiac clinics at each of Uganda’s
regional referral hospitals to promote early detection and prevent illness and
death from PPCM,” Nabbaale advises.
Furthermore, the mothers were followed up for six months to identify whether
there was any maternal or fetal death but none was registered. 60% of the
study participants had had full recovery of their heart function in six months
while on proper full dosed heart failure medication.
Doctors however say positive women risk suffering from the condition again in
pregnancies that they might get in future and are warned to enroll early on for
antenatal care to be monitored for any red flags and be enrolled on treatment.
One of the red flags could be swollen feet, ankles and legs.
This doctor says may be accompanied by a fast heartbeat, shortness of breath
and cough as a result of fluid build-up in the lungs. Other signs include
increased night-time urination and fatigue.
These signs Nabbaale says may mimic those of normal pregnancy, a
reason why one needs to do a test to rule out any complications since the
condition can quickly lead to heart failure.
This study which was funded by NURTURE Research Training and
Mentoring Program for Career Development found women with multiple pregnancies
to be at a higher risk of developing heart complications.