Stroke Symptoms in Pregnancy

A pregnant woman. Photo: Ian Waldie / Getty Images

Question: What are Stroke Symptoms Like in Pregnancy?

Answer:

In general, the symptoms of stroke during or after pregnancy are similar to the symptoms of any other stroke. However, some specific stroke symptoms seen during or after pregnancy can be a little different.

These include:

  • Headache: A headache that doesn't go away can be a sign of stroke. This may be the main symptom in strokes caused by cerebral venous thrombosis (CVT). Typically, headaches associated with stroke are more intense, or last much longer, than your regular headaches. You should go to the emergency room if you have such a headache or if your headache is accompanied by double vision, weakness or numbness. Another kind of headache that you should not ignore is called a thunderclap headache, which is a sudden headache that feels particularly intense.
  • Double Vision: Double vision is a rare presentation of stroke, but it can occur in the context of CVT or of a ruptured cerebral aneurysm. In either case, the event is accompanied by headache.
  • Dizziness or Vertigo: Dizziness may be the first sign of a stroke. However, not all dizziness is something to be concerned about. Dizziness that is accompanied by severe vomiting, vision changes or slurred speech may be the sign of a stroke or another medical emergency.
  • Blurry Vision: Because of the occipital lobe, which processes the sense of vision in our brain is located in the back areas of the brain, high blood pressure in a pregnant woman can lead to blurry vision. This usually occurs as a result of reversible posterior leukoencephalopathy syndrome (RPLS).
  • Seizures: Seizures can occur due to the brain injury of a stroke. In rare instances, seizures are the first sign of a stroke. Seizures can be a symptom of RPLS and hemorrhagic strokes, both of which can happen as a result of sudden and extreme high blood pressure during a high risk pregnancy.
  • Confusion and Lethargy: Severe bleeding or swelling inside the brain can lead to extreme sleepiness and/or confusion. This can happen due to RPLS, CVT, high blood pressure, and other forms of stroke in pregnancy.

Find out more about stroke during pregnancy and about strokes in newborns.

Edited by Heidi Moawad MD

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