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Pregnancy Complications Up Later Stroke Risk

Women With Preeclampsia, Other Common Problems Should Pay Close Attention to Diet, Exercise

Heavy Bleeding During Birth Also a Major Risk

The study included 162 women who had a stroke more than six weeks after giving birth and 306 women who did not have a stroke after pregnancy. The women were an average of 26 to 27 years old when they gave birth.

The researchers then looked to see how many of the women in each group had the following pregnancy complications: abruption, in which the lining of the placental wall is damaged and bleeds and the women need to be put on complete bed rest until they give birth; preeclampsia; postpartum hemorrhage, in which is there is a large loss of blood at the time of delivery; or pregnancy-related diabetes.

Women who gave birth to low- or high-birth-weight babies, had a stillbirth, or gave birth prematurely were also considered to have complications.

By an average of 13.5 years later, women who had any of these complications were 74% more likely to have had a stroke than those who had uncomplicated pregnancies.

Women with preeclampsia were more than twice as likely to have a stroke as those who did not have the condition, and those who had pregnancy-related diabetes were almost two and a half times more likely to have a stroke.

Heavy bleeding at the time of birth increased a woman's risk of stroke almost tenfold, "but the numbers were small; we need further study for confirmation," Bushnell says.

Bart Demaerschalk, MD, assistant professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., says the findings draw attention to an important and often overlooked problem.

"The study was well done and certainly establishes as association between pregnancy complications and stroke risk later in life," he tells WebMD. "If women have any of these complications, they should be closely monitored."

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