A Rare Type of Stroke Is Becoming More Common in Young Pregnant Women


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As happy and exciting as a pregnancy should be, it can also be incredibly stressful. Especially when you're constantly worrying about everything that can go wrong. While it's important not to stress out about every little thing, it is also important to be aware of the risks. A recently released report revealed that a rare type of stroke is becoming increasingly common in young pregnant women. Here's what you need to know. 

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Spontaneous subarachnoid hemorrhage (sSAH) is a potentially life-threatening stroke that occurs when the blood vessels on the surface of the brain rupture and cause bleeding in the membranes that surround the brain. 

Researchers at the University of Iowa looked at medical records for 3,978 pregnant women, and they found that the number of pregnant women admitted to the hospital for sSAH increased from 4 percent to 6 percent between 2002 and 2014. Even more troubling, the majority of pregnant women who suffered from sSAH were in their 20s. Researchers also discovered that pregnant African-American women had the highest risk of stroke at 8 percent, while Hispanic women came in second at 7 percent.

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Most pregnant women have probably never heard of sSAH, but the main symptom is a sudden, severe headache that starts at the base of the skull. Other symptoms of sSAH include neck pain, numbness throughout the body, abnormal headaches, sensitivity to light, vomiting, and seizures.

While these new findings are certainly concerning, the study did shed light on a surprising advantage pregnant women with sSAH may have versus other stroke patients. The study found that non-pregnant women actually have a higher chance of dying from sSAH than pregnant women. Eight percent of pregnant women admitted to the hospital with stroke died, compared to 17 percent of non-pregnant women.

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The study did not explore the reasons behind the rise of sSAH in pregnant women or why non-pregnant women are more likely to die from the stroke, but Parents.com spoke with cardiologist Elizabeth Klodas, who said the rise may have something to do with higher rates of obesity and hypertension among pregnant women. 

The study's lead author, Dr. Kaustubh Limaye, MD, clinical assistant professor in the Division of Cerebrovascular Diseases at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, stresses that even with rising numbers, this stroke is still very rare. 

"Rather than panic, the important thing that we would like pregnant women to know is that if they have atypical (different than usual) headache or [the] worst headache of their life they should seek immediate medical opinion," he told Parents.com.

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