Study uncovers stroke risk factors in preeclampsia

Complications such as infections, hypertension, bleeding disorders and blood clot-forming disorders increase stroke risk during and after childbirth.
By Amy Wallace   |   May 26, 2017 at 11:47 AM
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May 26 (UPI) -- A new study by Columbia University Medical Center has identified certain conditions that increase stroke risk for pregnant women with preeclampsia.

Preeclampsia, or high blood pressure during pregnancy, occurs in 3 percent to 6 percent of all pregnant women, and can become severe -- causing serious complications for both mother and baby.

Stroke in women with preeclampsia happens up to six times more often than compared to pregnant women without preeclampsia.

Research suggests pregnant women with preeclampsia are at a heightened risk of stroke during or after pregnancy if they have urinary tract infections, chronic high blood pressure, or clotting or bleeding disorders.

"We have suspected that certain conditions raise the risk of stroke in women with preeclampsia, but few studies have taken a rigorous look at this issue," Dr. Eliza C. Miller, a postdoctoral vascular neurology fellow in the Department of Neurology at New York Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, said in a press release. "Since strokes can be so devastating, it is critical to know whether these are just random events or due to modifiable risk factors."

Researchers analyzed health records of 197 women who had preeclampsia-related stroke and 591 women with preeclampsia who did not have a stroke from the New York State Department of Health inpatient database.

The results showed that the incidence of stroke in women with preeclampsia was more than 200 per 100,000 deliveries. More than one in 10 women who had a preeclampsia-related stroke died as a result.

"Women with preeclampsia who had chronic hypertension, bleeding or clotting disorders, or infections -- particularly urinary tract infections -- appeared to be at significantly increased risk of stroke," Miller said.

"The role of infection was perhaps the biggest question mark going into the study. Infections cause inflammation, which is known to play an important role in triggering stroke, especially in young people. Preeclampsia itself is an inflammatory disorder. Infections may be what pushed some of these women over the edge."

The study was published in Stroke.

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