A recent study published by the American Heart Association (AHA) said that the rate of pregnancy related stroke in women upped by 54 percent. The inferences noted that the increase was because women fell in high risk categories with conditions such as high blood pressure and obesity.

The study published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, was based on a national database that comprised of discharge information from 1,000 hospitals. It drew attention to the huge increase in the number of women who suffered a stroke while pregnant and in the three months following childbirth. The inference drawn revealed a count of 6,293 in 2006-07, for pregnancy-related stroke and its subsequent hospitalizations. This is 54 percent higher than that reported in 1994-95 which was 4,085.

Lead researcher Elena V.Kuklina, a CDC epidemiologist who along with colleagues compared stroke rates in women during pregnancy and childbirth, also compared these occurrences with post partum (12 weeks after childbirth) stroke rates. Kuklina said that there was approximately a 50 percent increase in all forms of stroke, adding that pregnancy related strokes totaled about 4,000 in 1994-1995, or about 2,000 each year. In 2006-2007, they totaled about 6,000, or 3,000 annually. The number of deliveries in the two periods was comparable, she said.

Based on the study, Kuklina suggests that women who enter pregnancy should try to do so, keeping in mind their overall cardiovascular health which could perhaps minimize the additional risk factors. She recommends developing a comprehensive, multidisciplinary plan that would enable doctors and patients to follow guidelines for accurate monitoring and care before, after and during childbirth. She also observed that the main problem of solving this health error is because safety norms on clinical studies typically do not allow pregnant women to participate in clinical trials as most drugs pose a hazard to the unborn fetus. Doctors therefore do not have enough guidance on the best medication for pregnant women, especially for those with an increased risk for stroke.

Other observations of the study state that in expectant mothers, the rate of stroke related hospitalizations rose by 47 percent; while in pregnant women and in women in the post partum stage, the stroke rate rose to 83 percent. The rate however, continued to remain the same for stroke hospitalizations that occurred immediately after childbirth. Pregnant women who were hospitalized following a stroke typically have high blood pressure, the study noted.

Data gathered said that 17 percent of expectant mothers (prior to childbirth) had high blood pressure in 2006-07 as against 11.3 per cent in 1994-95. Blood pressure rates in expectant mother (close to delivery) was 28.5 percent in 2006 -07 as against 23.4 percent during 1994-95. The post partum blood pressure rate in women during 2006-07 was 40.9 percent when compared to 27.8 percent in 1994-95. Commenting on the data, Kuklina observed that there is a need to further study the role of all these factors to arrive at a treatment model for expectant mothers who are at higher risks of stroke.