Strokes during pregnancy typically affect the blood vessel, but a rare form of venous stroke (originating in the veins instead of the blood vessels) sometimes occurs. Researchers report that this rare stroke is more predominant than doctors once thought. The stroke is termed cerebral venous thrombosis or CVT for short.

The publication Stroke, from the Journal of American Heart Association, reported the higher than expected numbers in a review of CVT cases. In underdeveloped nations, about one in 2,500 pregnancies are affected by CVT. That number lowers to one in 10,000 pregnancies in western countries. There seems to be a higher instance of CVT in women taking oral birth control and women who are pregnant than any other segment of the population. Nearly 75-percent of CVT cases are reported a short time after birth. During pregnancy, women are more likely to suffer CVT in the first four weeks or the third trimester.

Symptoms of CVT include headaches and seizures. Headaches may start out mild and progress in severity over days or weeks. Doctors can test for CVT using an MRI scan. If the condition is diagnosed, patients may have to take anti-coagulation medication for the duration of pregnancy and a short time after pregnancy. More invasive therapies are also available.

Source: American Heart Association and American Stroke Association. Fernando Barinagarrementeria, M.D.; Robert D. Brown Jr., M.D., M.P.H.; Cheryl D. Bushnell, M.D., M.H.S.; Brett Cucchiara, M.D.; Mary Cushman, M.D., M.Sc.; Gabrielle DeVeber, M.D.; Jose M. Ferro, M.D., Ph.D. and Fong Y. Tsai, M.D. 6 February, 2011.

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