peripartum cardiomyopathy

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- With a head full of curly hair and an infectious smile, Amanda Slayton's baby boy Seth is the light of her life.

"He was born on February the 27th, his full name is Seth Wesley Slayton and he weighed 9 pounds and 10 ounces," she said.

Slayton delivered baby Seth with no complications, but in the days and weeks following his birth, she began experiencing extreme shortness of breath.

"My breathing started getting worse to where I was short of breath walking from this chair to that chair," she said.

Just caring for her brand new baby became difficult. She dismissed her issues as asthma or allergies, but a month after giving birth, it got so bad she rushed to Norton Audubon Hospital. In the ICU, doctors diagnosed her with peripartum cardiomyopathy, a form of heart failure that hits new moms just after having a baby.

"I'm too young to have congestive heart failure. I don't have any issues with my heart," she thought.

Dr. Kelly McCants is medical director of the Advanced Heart Failure Program for Norton Healthcare. He's treating Slayton for the rare condition.

"It's actually pretty rare in that it happens in about 1 in 1,000 births in the United States," said McCants.

Risk factors for peripartum cardiomyopathy include advanced maternal age, multiple pregnancies, and hypertension. But Dr. McCants says diagnosing peripartum cardiomyopathy can be tricky.

"At the time of pregnancy, pregnant women hold on to a lot of fluid and they become short of breath, their legs swell. Some of these same symptoms are the symptoms we see for heart failure," he said.

When she finally went to the hospital, Slayton's enlarged heart was only pumping at 10 to 15 percent of its normal capacity. She fears what would have happened if she hadn't listened to her body.

"If I wouldn't have gone to the hospital, my 10-year-old son would have found me dead," said Slayton.

Her message to new moms? Don't forget about yourself.

"If you are worried about anything at all that is going on, make sure you say something. Don't hold off and put it off because you never know," she said.

With the right medication, Dr. McCants says 50 percent of patients will make a full recovery. Nearly a year after her diagnosis, Slayton is back at work, taking care of her family and preparing for baby Seth's first birthday.

"I can't wait to see him with his cake for the first time," said Slayton. "And still be able to celebrate with him, be here with him because he could have lost his mama."

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