Risk of Stroke During Pregnancy & After Childbirth on the Rise

bloodpressure_sizedThere's an alarming trend on the rise: an increase in the rate of strokes during pregnancy and after childbirth.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control compared the incidences of pregnancy-related strokes in the years 1994 to1995 and again for 2006 to 2007. While the number of deliveries during these two periods was comparable, the increase in number of strokes among pregnant women in the more recent period grew by almost 50 percent, according to a report by WebMd.

Dr. Elena Kuklina, PhD, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control, along with her colleagues, compared the stroke rates during pregnancy and after childbirth using information from a national database that included discharge information from over 1,000 hospitals throughout the United States. Compared to earlier years, they found a 47 percent increase in stroke during pregnancy and a 53 percent increase following childbirth from 2006 to 2007. The stroke rate occuring during delivery didn't change.

What has changed is the reality that more women were being hospitalized for stroke, likely due in large part to high blood pressure. And that high blood pressure is a very significant factor, increasing the risk of a pregnancy-related stroke by up to six times. Having heart disease also boosted stroke risk — by as much as ten times. Other contributing factors include obesity, low physical activity, diabetes, and blood clotting disorders.

The researchers conclude that women need to consider and address lifestyle issues before becoming pregnant. Healthy choices, including maintaining an appropriate weight, regular physical activity, monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol, managing blood sugar levels, and quitting smoking are all important factors in reducing these type of stroke risks.