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Stroke Risk After Childbirth

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

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Kamel said smokers and women with chronic high blood pressure are also at increased risk.

Doctors give high-risk women low-dose blood thinners for six weeks after delivery to reduce their risk, Kamel said. Future research should focus on whether 12 weeks would be a better timeframe for the drugs, he said.

The study was funded by the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

The findings suggest that both doctors and pregnant women should have a heightened awareness of the potential blood clot risk longer than the traditional six-week period, said Dr. Burton Rochelson, chief of maternal fetal medicine at North Shore LIJ Health System in Manhasset, N.Y.

Rochelson reviewed the findings but did not participate in the study. He, too, emphasized that although the increased risk was found to persist, the absolute risk is small. "Even though the risk increases in that seven to 12 weeks, you are still talking about very few people relative to the total number," he said.

Since the events are serious, however, "even a small number is undesirable," he said.

One study limitation, Rochelson said, is that the researchers combined all the blood-clotting problems. In future studies, he said, researchers should consider looking separately at the risks of heart attacks, strokes and blood clots in the legs and lungs.

Women should be aware of the warning signs of a blood clot problem, Kamel said. These include chest pain or pressure; difficulty breathing; pain or swelling in one leg; sudden and severe headache; or a sudden change in consciousness, speech, balance, strength or sensation on one side of the body.

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