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Stroke Health Center

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Stroke Risk After Childbirth

Although rates are very low, study finds increased risk continues for 12 weeks after delivery

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Kathleen Doheny

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Feb. 13, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- The increased risk of having a stroke or other blood-clotting problem might continue longer after a woman gives birth than previously believed, according to a new study.

"Historically, six weeks was the accepted period," said study researcher Dr. Hooman Kamel.

"We found the risk of blood clots remained higher than normal for twice as long as previously thought. After 12 weeks, it was no longer significant," said Kamel, an assistant professor in the Weill Cornell Medical College department of neurology and the Feil Family Brain and Mind Research Institute.

Even though the elevated risk continues for longer than previously believed, Kamel stressed that the overall risk is still low.

The study was published online Feb. 13 in the New England Journal of Medicine. Kamel, who is also a neurologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, is presenting the study Thursday at an American Stroke Association meeting in San Diego.

Kamel and his team looked at medical information from nearly 1.7 million women in California giving birth to their first child. The women delivered between early 2005 and mid-2010. Through the first year and a half after delivery, about 1,000 of the women had clotting problems, including about 250 strokes, 50 heart attacks and more than 700 cases of venous thromboembolisms (clots in the legs or lungs).

"Just like prior studies, we found the risk of these types of blood clots during the first six weeks after birth was [more than] 10 times higher than normal," Kamel said.

In the seven to 12 weeks after delivery, the risk dropped to twice the normal rate, he said. After 12 weeks, the risk was the same as when the woman was not pregnant.

Doctors monitor women for blood clots during pregnancy because the blood clots more easily at that time, according to the American Society of Hematology.

The risk of clotting problems during pregnancy is increased in women who are obese or genetically predisposed to clots, according to the society. The risk also increases in women who are inactive, on prolonged bed rest or take long trips by plane or car.

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