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Peripartum CM Ups Future Pregnancy Risks Despite LV Recovery

Women with peripartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM), regardless of whether their left ventricular (LV) function recovers, may have a heightened risk for a relapse and other cardiovascular events if they become pregnant again later, a new study suggests.

Researchers looked at the long-term outcomes in a cohort of women who had developed PPCM and became pregnant again several years later, comparing those with LV function that had “normalized” in the interim against those with persisting LV dysfunction.

In their analysis, adverse maternal outcomes 5 years after an index pregnancy were significantly worse among those in whom LV dysfunction had persisted compared with those with recovered LV function. The risk of relapsed PPCM persisted out to 8 years. Mortality remained high in both groups through the follow-up.

The study suggests that “women with PPCM need long-term follow-up by cardiology, as mortality does not abate over time,” Kalgi Modi, MD, Louisiana State University Health, Shreveport, Louisiana, told | Medscape Cardiology.

Women with a history of PPCM, she said, need “multidisciplinary and shared decision-making for family planning, because normalization of left ventricular function after index pregnancy does not guarantee a favorable outcome in the subsequent pregnancies.”

Modi is senior author on the study published online June 26 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The current findings are important to women with a history of PPCM who are “contemplating future pregnancy,” Afshan Hameed, MD, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist and cardiologist at the University of California, Irvine, told | Medscape Cardiology.

The investigators suggest that “complete recovery of cardiac function after PPCM does not guarantee a favorable outcome in future pregnancy,” agreed Hameed, who was not involved in the current study. Future pregnancies must therefore “be highly discouraged or considered with caution even in patients who have recovered their cardiac function.”

To investigate the impact of PPCM on risk at subsequent pregnancies, the researchers studied 45 patients with PPCM who had gone on to have at least one more pregnancy, the first a median of 28 months later. Their mean age was 27 and 80% were Black; they were followed a median of 8 years.

Peripartum cardiomyopathy, defined as idiopathic heart failure with LV ejection fraction (LVEF) 45% or less in the last month of pregnancy through the following 5 months, was diagnosed postpartum in 93.3% and antepartum in the remaining 6.7% (mean time of diagnosis, 6 weeks postpartum).

The mean LVEF fell from 45.1% at the index pregnancy to 41.2% (P = .009) at subsequent pregnancies. The “recovery group” included the 30 women with LVEF recovery to 50% or higher after the index pregnancy, and the remaining 15 with persisting LV dysfunction — defined as LVEF <50% — made up the “nonrecovery group.”

Recovery of LVEF was associated with a reduced risk of persisting LV dysfunction, the report states, at a hazard ratio (HR) of 0.08 (95% CI, 0.01 – 0.64, P = .02) after adjustment for hypertension, diabetes, and history of preeclampsia. But that risk went up sharply in association with illicit drug use, similarly adjusted, with an HR of 9.08 (95% CI, 1.38 – 59.8, P = .02).

The nonrecovery group, compared to the recovery group, experienced significantly higher rates of adverse maternal outcomes (a composite endpoint that included relapse PPCM, HF, cardiogenic shock, thromboembolic events, and death) at 5 years.

Table. Adverse Maternal Outcomes at Median 5 years, No Recovery vs Recovery Groups


No Recovery vs Recovery Group (%)


Adverse maternal outcomes

53.3 vs 20.0


Heart Failure

33.3 vs 3.3


Relapse PPCM

53.3 vs 20.0


All-cause mortality

13.3 vs 3.3



All-cause mortality was again nonsignificantly different between the 2 groups at a median of 8 years, and the difference in overall adverse maternal outcomes had gone from significant to nonsignificant.

Table 2. Adverse Maternal Outcomes at Median 8 years, No Recovery vs Recovery Groups


No Recovery vs Recovery Group (%)


Overall adverse maternal outcomes

53.3 vs 33.3


Relapse PPCM

53.3 vs 23.3


All-cause mortality

20.0 vs 20.0



The study is limited by its retrospective nature, a relatively small population, and lack of racial diversity, the report notes.

Indeed, most of the study’s subjects were Black, and previous studies have demonstrated a “different phenotypic presentation and outcome in African-American women with PPCM compared with non-African American women,” an accompanying editorial states.

Therefore, applicability of its findings to other populations “needs to be examined by urgently needed national prospective registries with long-term follow-up,” writes Uri Elkayam, MD, Keck School of Medicine at University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Moreover, the study questions “whether the reverse remodeling and improvement of [LVEF] in women with PPCM represent a true recovery.” Prior studies “have shown an impaired contractile reserve as well as abnormal myocardial strain and reduced exercise capacity and even mortality in women with PPCM after RLV,” Elkayam notes.

It’s therefore possible — as with other forms of dilated cardiomyopathy — that LVEF normalization “does not represent a true recovery but a new steady state with subclinical myocardial dysfunction that is prone to development of recurrent [LV dysfunction] and clinical deterioration in response to various triggers such as long-standing hypertension, obesity, diabetes, illicit drug use,” and, “more importantly,” subsequent pregnancies.

The study points to “the need for a close long-term follow-up of women with PPCM” and provides “a rationale for early initiation of guideline-directed medical therapy after the diagnosis of PPCM and possible continuation even after improvement of LVEF.”

No funding source was listed. Modi and co-authors, Elkayam, and Hameed declare no relevant financial relationships.

JACC. Published online June 26, 2023. Abstract, Editorial

Batya Swift Yasgur, MA, LSW is a freelance writer with a counseling practice in Teaneck, NJ. She is a regular contributor to numerous medical publications, including Medscape and WebMD, and is the author of several consumer-oriented health books as well as Behind the Burqa: Our Lives in Afghanistan and How We Escaped to Freedom (the memoir of two brave Afghan sisters who told her their story).

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