Don’t Let Pregnancy Lead to a Stroke:
One Danger of Preeclampsia

Pregnancy can be a wonderful time.  The expectation.  Planning for a new baby.

Unfortunately, 5-10% of pregnant women will suffer from preeclampsia or some other hypertensive disorder.  Characterized by high blood pressure and, sometimes, seizures, the disorder is easily treated.

However, even if the condition is successfully treated during the pregnancy, it can lead to higher risk of stroke later in life, according to McLeod Neurologist Dr. Timothy Hagen.

Here is a summary of Dr. Hagen’s comments:

So if you are hypertensive going into your pregnancy, you may or may not have an increased risk of preeclampsia and then can certainly cause issues with the pregnancy. What we are finding out is that women, who were hypertensive going into pregnancy or had preeclalmpsia,  will have issues 30 or 40 years later with an increased risk of stroke.

The thought is that that high blood pressure and going through pregnancy, the combination of those two causes some kind of injury to the lining that’s inside the blood vessels. That then sets you up for risk of having a stroke 30 or 40 years later. Certainly you can have a stroke around the pregnancy or at the end of the pregnancy and we’ve heard about those things. You can have eclampsia. And eclampsia means that you have really high blood pressure, you’re spilling protein in your urine, and you’ve had a seizure. That’s eclampsia.

Preeclampsia means you didn’t have the seizure, but you have the rest of it. And so it’s very interesting that preeclampsia — making that diagnosis in the doctor’s office — as you are going through the pregnancy is what then is going to set you up for a stroke down the road. So if you have pregnancies in your 20’s, all of a sudden now you’re having strokes in your 50’s and 60’s, not when you’re 70, 80, and 90.

That’s one of the take-home points: When you go to your doctor, you need to have that blood pressure checked because if you use hormone therapy, oral contraceptives, that’s going to put you at an increased risk of stroke if you have the high blood pressure. So you have to get the whole exam done and then you can reduce the risk for stroke.

If you had preeclampsia or some other hypertensive disorder during pregnancy, make sure you see your OB/GYN and monitor your blood pressure on an ongoing basis.

Find an OB/GYN near you.

Sources include: McLeod Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Heart Association, National Stroke Association, Preeclampsia Foundation