Just-released research from a large national study observed a frightening trend: Rates of stroke in women during pregnancy or soon after giving birth have jumped 54 percent in a dozen years.
The rate of stroke climbed about 47 percent in women before giving birth and about 83 percent in new moms in the postpartum period, 12 weeks after giving birth. The risk of stroke rises in pregnancy in part because of a higher volume of blood, but also because of increased risk of high blood pressure, blood clots and migraine headaches. Dramatic fluctuations in hormones and blood pressure in the weeks after giving birth may increase risk during that time, doctors say.
That’s a troubling rise, even for a condition that remains rare, said Dr. Elena V. Kuklina, the study’s lead author, stroke expert and epidemiologist at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overall, strokes were detected in about 71 of every 100,000 delivery hospitalizations by the end of the study period.
Almost all of the increase in strokes during or soon after pregnancy was explained by higher prevalence of high blood pressure and heart disease during pregnancy, said Kuklina. That’s a worrisome trend in a nation where roughly one in five women is obese when she becomes pregnant, a risk factor for both conditions.
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