Strokes Spike In Pregnant Women, New Moms - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Strokes Spike In Pregnant Women, New Moms

MSNBC.COM - At age 25, home with a week-old baby boy, Rachel Eagly had no reason to think a little headache meant she was having a stroke.

But then came the blinding pain, the starburst flashes of light, the slurred speech and sudden weakness in her right arm.

Within hours, emergency doctors confirmed what no one wanted to believe: A blood vessel had burst in Eagly's brain.

"I remember thinking something's wrong here and I don't know what it is," recalled Eagly, now 30, who was placed in a medically induced coma for nearly two weeks, and then hospitalized for months while she relearned how to speak and walk, even as she cared for her newborn son, Aidan.

Just-released research from a large national study shows that the Lansing, Mich., mom is part of a frightening trend: Rates of stroke in women during pregnancy or soon after giving birth have jumped 54 percent in a dozen years.

Spurred largely by an increase in cases of high blood pressure and heart disease, the number of pregnancy-related stroke hospitalizations climbed by more than 2,200 between 1994-95 and 2006-2007 — the year Aidan was born — according to a new study published in the journal Stroke.

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.

"We expected some degree of increase, but I was surprised to find such magnitude," said Kuklina, who  analyzed records from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, a database that includes from five million to eight million discharge records from 1,000 hospitals.

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. >>>CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM MSNBC.COM

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