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Strokes During Pregnancy, Childbirth on the Rise

Researchers Say Rising Rate of High Blood Pressure Is a Factor in the Increase in Stroke
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Stroke During Pregnancy, After Pregnancy continued...

Other factors can contribute to the higher stroke rate, Kuklina says, including obesity, low physical activity, diabetes, and blood clotting disorders.

Complicating the issue, she says, is that "we know very little about how to treat stroke and high blood pressure during pregnancy."

"There's no consensus on how to treat women with high blood pressure which remains after delivery," Kuklina says.

Women should address lifestyle issues before trying to get pregnant, Kuklina says. "Think about controlling weight," she says. Stop smoking.

Other measures are to engage in regular physical activity, eat a healthy diet, control blood pressure and cholesterol, and manage blood sugar levels.

Expert: Pregnant Women Should Know Risks

The study is an important one, says Cheryl Bushnell, MD, director of the Wake Forest Baptist Stroke Center at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C.

She has also studied pregnancy-related stroke. She analyzed the same data in 2000 to 2001, and she notes some differences in what conditions were considered under the stroke "umbrella" for the current study. However, the CDC researchers did compare the same conditions for the two time periods.

In her own research, Bushnell says, she also included migraine and found it associated with stroke.

The study does not focus on ethnicity, and that is a limitation, Bushnell says. "We found that African-American race was independently associated with risk of stroke during pregnancy."

''Women getting pregnant should know what their risk factors are and make sure they understand what a healthy lifestyle entails," she says. "It is just as important for young women to be aware of this as for older women, especially as high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity are occurring at younger and younger ages."

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