Dying during delivery - heart failure kills moms-to-be

FRESNO, Calif.

It's the call Dr. Stephanie Dunlap never wants to get.

"It's always my most anxious moment as a heart failure physician...because I have the chance to lose two patients instead of one," Dr. Stephanie Dunlap, Medical Director at the Heart Failure Program at the University of Cincinnati told Action News.

The moment that almost took Amanda Hodge's life at 28 and pregnant with her second child, something didn't feel right. But...

"Doctor after doctor kept saying, 'you're pregnant honey, you're going to have swelling you're going to have trouble breathing, you do get tired easy,'" Amanda Hodge, a woman who suffered heart failure at 28 told Action News.

At 24 weeks, her water broke. She was put on bed rest, and then three weeks later she underwent an emergency C-section, when her heart suddenly stopped beating. The cause? Peripartum cardiomyopathy, which is a form of heart failure that affects healthy women during the last months of pregnancy or up to five months after delivery. It happens in about one in every 3,500 pregnancies and 25 to 50 percent of affected women will die. Since the symptoms mimic pregnancy, it's often not diagnosed. But watch out if:

"You develop ankle swelling to the point you can stick your thumb in and leave a dimple that's two millimeters or more deep and you hear yourself wheezing and you're having to sit up at night to breathe," Dr. Dunlap said.

While Amanda's life was saved, baby Gideon Lew didn't make it. Now Amanda wants to warn others about the condition.

"The fact that I'm here at all is an absolute miracle and I won't take that for granted," Amanda concluded.

Women who develop Peripartum Cardiomyopathy run a high risk of death with future pregnancies and doctors warn against trying to get pregnant again.


Katie Pence
Public Information Officer
University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.