Pregnancy and Stroke

Pregnancy and Stroke: What do I need to know???

 Wow!  There’s a lot of stuff in the news about stroke risk and pregnancy this past week…

-Washington Post, New York Times and USA Today all bring up the fact that certain conditions in pregnancy can increase your risk of stroke up to 3 or 4 times that of a normal female. 


Let me clarify your stroke risk and what you can do:

1) Stroke risk of a normal young woman (not pregnant) is 11 in 100,000.  That’s 0.00011%

2) Stroke risk of a young woman in pregnancy is approximately 34 in 100,000.  That’s 0.00034%.  So while your risk is higher during pregnancy, the chances remain very, very, very low. 

Just to put this risk in perspective, you have a much higher chance of being in a serious motor vehicle accident than having a stroke any time soon. 

3) Why is this now in the papers? 

The American Heart Association has taken a closer look at what the greatest risks are for women for stroke.  Looking through those recommendations, there has not been any dramatic changes (in my opinion anyway).  We continue to look carefully at the things that make you at highest risk for stroke.  High blood pressure (with or without pregnancy), smoking, pregnancy, and maybe birth control pills all increase your risk.  This is not dramatically new information.  I do think that the word “pregnancy” is a word in the headlines that catches most of the public’s eye and newspapers do want to attract your attention as much as possible.

4) What can I do to reduce risk? 

Fortunately, there is some pretty obvious and easy things that you already doing (or should be anyway!). -Quit smoking. Do it for you, your family, your newborn! Cancer (of most kinds), stroke, heart attack, asthma, increased child ear infections, increased ER visits. The list goes on and on as far as what cigarettes do. I know it’s hard (it might honestly be the hardest thing you ever do) but there are many ways that I can help! Call me if you need to look at different options –Get your blood pressure checked every once in a while. If it is ever high, then make sure that you are having routine checks done at a fire station or a clinic. Often times these checks are free! If you have high blood pressure during pregnancy, it is something that I help you monitor.

Discuss risks of birth control with your provider/doctor. The reality is that birth control pills carry pretty small risks (just like many other medications), but it is still important to understand what those risk are. If you have high blood pressure or smoke, then you may need to consider different options.

-WATCH YOUR WEIGHT (with diet and exercise). There are many things that obesity will do. Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks, high cholesterol. With all of these conditions, there is usually lots of medication involved. I ALWAYS, ALWAYS prefer weight loss over medication. And I’m sure you might prefer this too.