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Preeclampsia is a condition marked by high blood pressure and protein in a pregnant woman's urine. It affects between 3 percent and 8 percent of pregnancies. Women with preeclampsia are at increased risk for stroke during and after pregnancy, though pregnancy-related strokes are rare.
"Preeclampsia is a very complex disorder that's not completely understood. Our study sought to discover if there are ... clues that may help identify the women with preeclampsia who are at the highest risk for pregnancy-related stroke," said lead author Dr. Eliza Miller, a vascular neurology fellow at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center.
Researchers looked at nearly 89,000 women who developed preeclampsia between 2003 and 2012. Of those, about 200 had a pregnancy-related stroke.
Women who had a pregnancy-related stroke were seven times more likely to have severe preeclampsia or eclampsia, according to the study. They were three times more likely to arrive at the hospital with infections; a history of high blood pressure before developing preeclampsia; or blood clotting disorders.
The study was published May 25 in the journal Stroke.
"We were looking for risk factors that could be prevented or treated," Miller said in a journal news release. She added that a link between stroke risk and urinary tract infections (UTIs) was interesting, because UTIs are not only treatable but also preventable.
Women who develop preeclampsia should be alert for warning signs, even after the baby is born, she suggested in the news release.
"Women with preeclampsia should take any neurological symptoms, such as severe headache, very seriously, especially during the postpartum period. This needs to be a major focus of future stroke research in women," Miller said.
-- Robert Preidt
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