What causes a heart attack after giving birth?
Heart attacks generally occur due to plaque clogging in the arteries which causes the blood supply to the heart muscles to be blocked. A heart attack can also be caused by narrowing of the blood vessels.
However, in new mothers, heart attacks after childbirth are more caused by a sudden tear in the artery wall. In the medical world, a spontaneous tear in an artery is called a spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD). According to the American Heart Association, nearly 30% of SCAD cases occur in women who have recently given birth. About 80% of patients who have had a previous SCAD are fairly young, healthy, and active women.
The artery wall has three layers. If a tear occurs in the inner wall layer, blood flow that seeps out can get trapped between the other two layers and eventually form a clot (thrombosis). The blood clot then slows down blood flow to the heart. Heart muscle and tissue that do not receive oxygen will continue to experience damage and eventually die.
SCAD doesn’t know the exact cause. However, in women who have just given birth, the risk can be affected by changes in body hormones, decreased collagen production, and changes in the blood clotting process during the recovery period.
In addition, the risk of heart disease after childbirth can also increase due to the weight gain of the heart muscle. During pregnancy, the heart muscle will pump up to 50 percent more blood than before pregnancy. The heart muscle becomes weak, causing the heart to enlarge. As a result, the heart cannot work optimally to pump blood throughout the body.
If not treated quickly, SCAD can cause heart rhythm abnormalities, heart attacks, and even sudden death.