For pregnant women, infection during pregnancy may be dangerous to their unborn child—and increase their risk of post-partum stroke.
During the recent meeting of the American Stroke Association, researchers reviewed and discussed the impacts and causes of cerebrovascular disease around the world. Preliminary research presented during the conference points to risk factors for stroke. One of them is pregnancy.
Still considered rare, post-partum stroke is on the increase in the US. Note Dr. Eliza Miller, lead author, and Assistant Professor of neurology at New York’s Columbia University Irving Medical Center, “Even though it is rare, maternal stroke has been increasing in the United States. Women who have infections at the time of delivery should be counseled about the signs and symptoms of stroke, such as severe headache, vision changes, speech difficulty or sudden weakness, and the need to seek immediate medical attention if they experience these symptoms.”
Using data from the 2013 Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project National Readmissions Database, scientists looked at data from 3.5 million hospitalizations to explore a possible connection between infection during pregnancy, and stroke after giving birth. Findings of the study include:
- Data revealed a “strong relationship” between infections like pneumonia, sepsis, and bladder infections that occur during delivery, and the occurrence of stroke within the following four weeks. Of 79,656 women readmitted in the month after giving birth, 225 were readmitted for stroke.
- Women who experienced an infection during their delivery were five times more likely to be readmitted to the hospital for a stroke following their discharge.
- Among all women readmitted to the hospital after giving birth, women who suffered a stroke were three times more likely to have experienced an infection during their delivery.
Researchers point out that their data does not show a causal relationship between having an active infection during delivery and later suffering a stroke. Stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked or damaged. The resulting loss of oxygenated blood to the brain causes brain damage, disability, and sometimes, death.
Appropriate testing and treatment of infection throughout pregnancy and during delivery is essential to the long-term health of both mom and baby. If you are pregnant or thinking about pregnancy, speak with your physician about how you can protect yourself from infection and stroke before—and after delivery.
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