Pregnancy may increase stroke risk for younger, not older, women

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Pregnancy may increase stroke risk for younger, not older, women

07 Nov, 2016

A recently published study from Columbia University found that stroke risk increases for younger pregnant women, but not for older.

Previous studies had found that stroke risk increases for older pregnant women, findings which coincide with the rising incidence of stroke during pregnancy as women more often wait to have children until a later age. However, these studies did not compare pregnant and non-pregnant women of the same age.

The study at Columbia examined data from every woman hospitalized for stroke in New York State between 2003 and 2012. Of these 19, 146 women, 4.2% were pregnant or had just given birth. While the incidence of stroke did increase with age, 46.9 per 100,000 in women age 45 to 55 vs. 14 per 100,000 in women age 12 to 24, the women in the younger age group had a much higher incidence than their non-pregnant peers.

The risk of a non-pregnant woman between the age of 12 and 24 having a stroke is 6.4 per 100,000 women, whereas in a pregnant woman of the same age, the risk more than doubles to 14 per 100,000 women. For women ages 25 to 34, the risk increases 1.6 times, while for older women the risk remains the same.

“We have been warning older women that pregnancy may increase their risk of stroke, but this study shows that their stroke risk appears similar to women of the same age who are not pregnant,” said Eliza C. Miller, MD, a vascular neurology fellow in the Department of Neurology at CUMC.

“But in women under 35, pregnancy significantly increased the risk of stroke. In fact, 1 in 5 strokes in women from that age group were related to pregnancy.”

“We need more research to better understand the causes of pregnancy-associated stroke, so that we can identify young women at the highest risk and prevent these devastating events.”

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