Stroke Risk During Pregnancy

It is uncommon for a young, healthy person to experience a stroke, particularly if the individual does not have any stroke risk factors.

Pregnancy is one of the times in life during which most women try harder than usual to take care of their health and to pay special attention to any unusual symptoms. Pregnant women are often warned to be on the lookout for neurological symptoms that can raise a red flag of a stroke during pregnancy.


When compared with non-pregnant women of similar age, pregnant women have an elevated stroke risk -- especially in the first six weeks after delivery, when the risk is approximately nine times greater than that of non pregnant women.

While nine times the normal stroke rate may sound alarming, strokes are so infrequent among young people that a stroke during or shortly after pregnancy only occurs at a rate of approximately one in every 10,000 to 20,000 deliveries.

Causes of Stroke During Pregnancy

When strokes do occur during pregnancy, they tend to affect pregnant women who already suffer from  certain health problems that predispose to stroke.

If you have any of the above medical problems, it is best to see your doctor and discuss your plans to become pregnant before you become pregnant. The stroke risk factors listed above can predispose anyone to a stroke, but the physical changes that occur during pregnancy make the likelihood of a stroke higher than it would be otherwise.

If you are already pregnant, there is a chance that you will be referred to see a maternal-fetal-medicine specialist, who is an obstetrician who specializes in caring for women who have high risk pregnancies. This will minimize your chances of having a complication yourself and is also the best way to reduce the chances of your baby having a health problem such as a stroke.

If you have a heart problem, you will likely also need to see a cardiologist before, during and after your pregnancy. If you have a brain aneurysm, you will likely need to follow closely with a neurologist before, during and after your pregnancy. Similarly, if you have a blood clotting disorder, lupus or another inflammatory disorder, you will need to see your medical specialist as well as your obstetrician, and there is a chance they will confer with each other regarding any challenging issues that arise during your pregnancy.

Causes of Stroke During Labor and Delivery

There are a number of medical issues that can affect your pregnancy, labor and delivery.

These issues are more common among women who have stroke risk factors, but they may arise unexpectedly, even if you do not have stroke risk factors.

These are medical emergencies that may cause serious complications to the mother, such as stroke. And these problems may also affect the health of the baby.

All of these conditions may occur suddenly. But a variety of tools that can help your doctors monitor your pregnancy, and especially your labor and delivery, can help anticipate, and thus control these emergency situations. Even when these pregnancy complications arise, your medical team can reduce the severity, often without major negative outcomes.

How Can I Reduce Stroke Risk During and After Pregnancy?

The best methods for preventing strokes during and after pregnancy are the same methods used to prevent strokes at any other time in life. For pregnant women with preexisting risk factors, such as the ones described above, this also means following up closely with a physician.

Drug use is a particular danger during pregnancy, as a mother's blood pressure and heart functions change as a result of weight gain and hormonal factors. Therefore, drug use can cause more serious and long lasting problems during pregnancy that it would at other times. These problems can affect the baby, the mother, or both.


Edited by Heidi Moawad MD


Pregnancy loss and risk of ischaemic stroke and myocardial infarction, Maino A, Siegerink B, Algra A, Martinelli I, Peyvandi F, Rosendaal FR, Br J Haematol. 2016 Jul;174(2):302-9

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