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The female heart has previously been found to adapt to physiological stresses, one being pregnancy and the structural and hemodynamic adaptations that the female heart undergoes prior to delivery. Due to hormonal and hemodynamic changes that occur during pregnancy, the female heart can experience ventricular hypertrophy, the enlargement of the ventricle walls of the heart, and volume overload, an increase in the amount of blood pumped by the heart., Previous research from our lab has shown that contractile function is altered in late pregnancy, and other studies suggest an impairment of contractile function late in pregnancy. It has also been shown that the morphological and functional adaptations to pregnancy are reversed after delivery, but the timing of this reversal has not been studied. Given that a small percentage of women develop peripartum cardiomyopathy (heart muscle abnormality) in late pregnancy, or shortly after delivery, it is important to understand the process by which the heart returns to the pre-pregnancy state following delivery. Using the mouse model system, this study examines the morphology and contractile function of individual cardiac muscle cells isolated from hearts at 13 to 15 days post-partum. These data are compared to those of non-pregnant and late pregnant mice. The results of this study will give novel and important insights into the adaptation of the female heart to pregnancy and its return to pre-pregnancy state following delivery.
Nelson, Aaron R., "The Morphology and Contractility of the Postpartum Heart" (2016). Biology Summer Fellows. Paper 25.