Strokes on the rise among pregnant women and new moms

Greater stroke risk for mothers. Via Google Images

A recent national study reported that rates of stroke in women during pregnancy or soon after giving birth have jumped an average of 54 percent in 12 years (47% in pregnant women and 83% in new mothers within 12 weeks of giving birth).

According to a new study published in the journal, Stroke, pregnancy-related stroke hospitalizations climbed by more than 2,200 between 1994-95 and 2006-2007. journal Stroke. While the rise is significant, the overall number of strokes isstill relatively low (71 out of every 100,000 hospitalizations at the end of the study period). The study covered over 5 million hospital records from 1,000 hospitals.

Dr. Elena V. Kuklina, the study’s lead author, stroke expert and epidemiologist at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said “We expected some degree of increase, but I was surprised to find such magnitude.”

There is a greater risk of stroke for pregnant women because of a higher volume of blood and also because of increased risk of high blood pressure, blood clots and migraine headaches. According to doctors, hormones and blood pressure fluctuate wildly in the weeks after giving birth, which  may increase risk during that time. The study also found that women ages 25 to 34 were hospitalized for stroke more often than women who were younger or older.

Kuklinka attributed almost all of the increase in strokes during or soon after pregnancy to higher prevalence of high blood pressure and heart disease during pregnancy. “We are dealing with a different population of pregnant women now,” she said and then stressed the importance of better preventive care and monitoring for pregnant women.