New research is showing that pregnant women who experience high blood pressure should be aware of the signs and symptoms of stroke after the baby is born.
Throughout pregnancy, the woman is the patient. But once the baby is born the primary focus shifts away from mom to the little bundle of joy. With a new infant to care for at home, moms may ignore their own health needs including signs of stroke.
High blood pressure during pregnancy, known as preeclampsia, affects 5 to 10% of women worldwide. Due to the mother’s high blood pressure, the blood supply to the fetus is often reduced and can result in decreased oxygen and nutrients to the baby. Untreated, preeclampsia can cause serious health issues for mom as well.
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Preeclampsia is diagnosed in women with a previously normal blood pressure who experience a blood pressure higher than 140/90, as well as having protein present in the urine. Women who have preeclampsia may complain of increased swelling in their face and hands, as well as new onset of headaches. More severe signs include abdominal pain, vision problems, and nausea or vomiting.
According to a study published in the June 2017 issue of Stroke, women with preeclampsia face a higher risk of stroke both during pregnancy and following the birth of their babies. The study examined the records of nearly 89,000 women from New York State who had been diagnosed with preeclampsia. Of these women, approximately 200 had a stroke.
The researchers sought to examine if any factors raised the risk of pregnancy-related stroke. According to an article in US News and World Report, women who had a stroke were seven times more likely to have a severe case of preeclampsia and three times more likely to have an existing infection upon arrival to the hospital. Additionally, women with a history of high blood pressure before becoming pregnant or women with a blood clotting disorder were also at increased risk.
It’s common medical knowledge that the only cure for preeclampsia is delivery of the baby. However, the risk for mom does not end when the baby is born. In fact, in some ways, a mom’s risk increases.
In an interview with Medicalresearch.com, lead author, Dr. Eliza Miller, said “It’s very important to note that two thirds of the strokes occurred postpartum, after women delivered their babies. Most of them happened after women had been discharged home from the hospital. Women are vulnerable during this time because the focus has shifted from their own health to the health of their newborn baby.”
While some cultures embrace the caring for both mom and baby after birth, many do not. This study reinforces the fact that moms in the postpartum period also need additional attention and care.