THURSDAY, July 28 (HealthDay News) -- The risk of suffering a stroke during -- or soon after -- pregnancy has increased dramatically in recent years, according to new U.S. government research.
From the mid-1990s to 2006-2007, the rate of pregnancy-related stroke hospitalizations went up by 54 percent.
"When we started this study, we expected to see some increase in pregnancy-related stroke, but we did not expect to see such a big increase," said study author Dr. Elena Kuklina, an epidemiologist in the division for heart disease and stroke prevention at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
But, pregnancy-related stroke is still "pretty rare," she added. About 4,000 strokes a year occurred at the start of the study, compared to more than 6,000 at the end.
Results of the study, published online July 28, will appear in the September print edition of the journal Stroke.
The study wasn't designed to assess what factors influenced the increased risk of stroke, Kuklina said. But, women today are often older when they get pregnant, and they may be overweight or obese, which are known risk factors for stroke, she noted.
Also, more women who become pregnant have pre-existing chronic medical conditions, such as congenital heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and autoimmune diseases, she said. In the past, many of these women would have been discouraged from attempting pregnancy.
Data for the study came from a national database that gathers discharge information from 1,000 hospitals.
The rate of hospitalization for stroke during pregnancy went up 47 percent from 1994-95 to 2006-2007, according to the study. In the postpartum period (after the birth of the baby), the rate of stroke hospitalizations jumped even more -- 83 percent -- during the same time period. Rates of stroke hospitalizations remained the same during
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