Published on

Pregnant women who experience migraines may be at a higher risk of stroke, according to recent research.

Along with the aches, pains, hunger, and nausea that sometimes accompany pregnancy, many women experience severe headaches or migraines.  Because of the hormonal fluctuations of pregnancy, women who usually get migraine headaches may be afflicted less—or more—until and after they give birth. Sometimes these conditions are passed off by healthcare providers as a common side effect of pregnancy.

A study published in JAMA Neurology suggests that migraine during pregnancy may increase maternal risk of both ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke.  An ischemic stroke occurs when a clot or embolism blocks or slows blood supply to the brain.  A hemorrhagic stroke results from the bursting of a weak blood vessel that breaks within or on the surface of the brain.  Both are dangerous medical conditions that require emergency treatment.

The increased risk of stroke appears to be related to hypertensive disorders sometimes experienced during pregnancy. “Hypertensive disorder” is a broad term that captures conditions related to high blood pressure disorders of pregnancy, including preeclampsia, gestational hypertension, and associated conditions.

In this study, researchers evaluated data from three million singleton births that occurred between January 2007 and December 2012.  The aim of the research was to explore the involvement of hypertensive disorder in the relationship between migraines and maternal stroke.

The study found that hypertensive disorders put women who suffer migraines at higher risk of stroke.  Here are some points of the study:

  • Within the study data, 26,440 women were diagnosed with migraines (or 914 of 100,000 births).
  • 843 women (29 of each 100,000 births) suffered a stroke. Of these, 58% were ischemic strokes.
  • Analysis reveals hypertensive disorders were associated with 21 percent of stroke risk during pregnancy, and 27 percent of stroke risk in the postpartum period.

Study authors note, “Approximately one-fourth of the excess cases of maternal stroke associated with migraine were attributable to hypertensive disorders. This suggests that other pathways exist between migraine and stroke during the perinatal period, potentially through pathophysiologic changes, such as increased blood volume and cerebral circulation.”

While headache is common during pregnancy, migraine may give rise to more serious complications during and after pregnancy.  If you or a family member is pregnant and experiences migraine, be sure to speak with your physician about concerns and monitoring for hypertensive disorder, because sometimes a headache is not just a headache.

Knowledgeable malpractice attorneys fight for compensation on your behalf

Whether from misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose, or medical mistake, Schochor, Staton, Goldberg, and Cardea, P.A. delivers experienced, skilled legal service to individuals and families hurt by poor standards of healthcare. Contact us today or call 410-234-1000.