A shocking new study led by Dr. Elena Kuklina of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention shows that hospitalizations for pregnancy-related strokes and mini strokes has climbed 54% from 4,100 in 1994 to 6,300 in 2007. And while this may not seem to be an overly large number when you consider that nearly 4 million babies are born in this country every year, “it is a very, very alarming statistic that we need to take extrememly seriously,” commented neurologist Dr. Olajide Williams from Columbia University and Harlem Hospital and a spokesman for the American Stroke Association.
Kuklina’s report, published in yesterday’s edition if the American Heart Association Journal “Stroke”, was based on records from a national sampling of approximately 8 million hospitalizations a year, looking closely at the amount of women experiencing strokes or mini-strokes (known as transient ischemic attacks or TIA’s) during pregnancy and up to three months after giving birth. What they saw was that nearly all the attacks were caused by high blood pressure and heart disease, with the lowest rates in the Northeast, and highest occurances in the South. They also noted that women are having babies at older ages, which also increases their risk of stroke.
“Pregnancy raises the stroke risk because of hormonal and blood changes,” remarked Kuklina. “If a woman starts our unhealthy, with problems such as diabetes or high blood pressure, she doubles her chances of having a stroke during pregnancy or right after.”
She also went on to state that this is “a worrisome trend in a nation where roughly one in five women is obese when she becomes pregnant, a risk factor for both conditions. We are dealing with a different population of pregnant women now.”
Pregnant women or women who have recently given birth should seek immediate medical attention if the following symptoms occur, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health: Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, mainly on one side of the body; Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; Sudden trouble walking, dizziness or loss of balance; Sudden confusion or trouble talking or understanding speech; Sudden bad headache with no known cause; Sudden face and arm or leg pain; Sudden hiccups; Sudden nausea; sudden tiredness; Sudden chest pain; Sudden shortness of breath; Sudden pounding or racing heartbeat.
For more information about strokes contact the Connecticut Chapter of the American HeaRT Association 5 Brookside Dr., Wallingford, CT 06492 203 294-0088, as well as Yale-New Haven Hospital 20 York St., New Haven, CT 06510 203 688-4242 to learn more about women’s health issues in general.