Women Who Suffer Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes Face Higher Risk of Stroke: Study

Gestational hypertension, preeclampsia, eclampsia, preterm birth, and low birth weight all appeared to increase a woman's risk of having a stroke, researchers warn.

New research suggests women who experience complications during pregnancy are more likely to suffer a stroke at a younger age, with the earliest onset of problems seen among women with more than one adverse pregnancy outcome.

According to findings of a report published last week in the medical journal Stroke, pregnancy side effects like preeclampsia, gestational hypertension and other complications may double the risk of having a stroke before the age of 45.

Researchers from Finland used data from the FinnGen Study focusing on Finnish national health registry data, which included data on more than 144,000 women who gave birth after 1969, when the hospital discharge registry was established. This included more than 300,000 births.

The study looked at the risk of stroke among women who had not suffered any adverse pregnancy outcomes, and compared them to women who suffered at least one negative outcome, and women who suffered more than one adverse outcome.

Adverse pregnancy outcomes were defined as a pregnancy affected by gestational hypertension, preeclampsia, eclampsia, preterm birth, small for gestational age infant, or placental abruption. Many of the adverse complications are marked by high blood pressure during pregnancy, which can be life threatening to both mother and child.

Strokes Came At Younger Ages After Pregnancy Complications

Among the women, 18% had at least one pregnancy with an adverse outcome and 3% experienced adverse outcomes in more than two pregnancies.

Women who suffered one adverse pregnancy outcome had a higher risk of suffering a stroke in their lifetime compared to those that didn’t suffer any adverse pregnancy outcome. Women who suffered more than one negative outcome faced an even higher risk.

In addition, women who experienced negative pregnancy outcomes were more likely to suffer a stroke at a younger age than those who did not, the researchers determined.

On average, women who did not suffer negative pregnancy outcomes suffered a stroke at age 58. Comparatively, women who suffered one adverse pregnancy outcome suffered a stroke at age 55. Those that suffered more than one adverse pregnancy outcome or recurrent pregnancy outcomes suffered a stroke at an average age 52.

Women who suffered recurrent adverse pregnancy outcomes, like preeclampsia, had more than twice the stroke risk before the age of 45 compared to those without adverse pregnancy outcomes.

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Roughly one out of every five pregnancies in the United States are affected by adverse outcomes.

Women already face a higher risk of suffering from stroke compared to men and often face disability after suffering a stroke, reducing their ability to conduct daily functions, move, speak and even eat. By factoring the increased risk of stroke among women who have suffered adverse pregnancy outcomes, the number of women suffering stroke and disability is greatly increasing.

Women who experienced adverse pregnancy outcomes often suffered from other health conditions which can also increase the risk of negative outcomes, including obesity, hypertension, heart disease, and migraines.

Researchers noted that women can reduce their risk of stroke with lifestyle interventions including healthy diet, increasing physical activity and low-dose aspirin. These interventions may help prevent stroke but women should talk to their doctor about their risk and what interventions are safe to implement.


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