Stroke has debilitating effects and it can happen when one least expects it. But researchers are more alarmed by the increase of pregnancy-related stroke rate in the last 12 years.  According to a study published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, the incidence of pregnant women who recently gave birth being hospitalized due to stroke increased 54 percent in 2006-2007. 

Researchers used a huge database of 5-8 million patients discharged from about 1,000 hospitals in 1994 to 2007 to study the occurrence of stroke in expectant mothers, women who were delivering a baby and women who recently gave birth.  The result of the study showed a substantial increase in pregnancy related stroke.  Furthermore, it called for greater efforts to stop the disease.

Pregnancy increases the risk of stroke.  This is because expectant mothers are likely to gain weight, develop hypertension, diabetes or hereditary heart problems.  Stroke hospitalizations of pregnant women increased 47% while incidence of stroke in expectant mothers and new moms rose 83%.  Moreover, the rate for stroke hospitalizations that happened around the time nearing childbirth remained the same.  Pregnant women and those in the postpartum stage between ages 25 to 34 were admitted to the hospital due to stroke more frequently than younger or older people.  In addition, hypertension appeared to be dominant in pregnant women who were admitted to hospital due to stroke.

The research shows that among pregnant women afflicted with stroke in 1994-95, 11.3 percent showed a spike in blood pressure just before giving birth.  23.4 percent had high blood pressure during or nearly before delivery and27.8 percent of those within 12 weeks of delivery, which is considered as the postpartum period.  The 2006-07 study revealed occurrence of high blood pressure in 17 percent of pregnant women; 28.5 percent around the time of delivery and 40.9 percent during the postpartum period.

It is certainly wise for women who are planning to get pregnant to have a healthy heart and circulatory system.  The majority of prescription drugs are possibly harmful to the unborn child which is why clinical research should not be done on women who are pregnant.  For this reason, it is difficult to determine which medicines are best for pregnant women who have a greater risk for stroke.  Subsequently, having a complete, multidisciplinary method that gives medical professionals and pregnant women instructions for the right monitoring and care prior to, while and after giving birth is also important.

Source: Stroke. E. V. Kuklina, X. Tong, P. Bansil, M. G. George, W. M. Callaghan. 29 July, 2011.