News, Culture & Society

Rare type of stroke is increasing among pregnant women

A rare form of stroke is increasing among pregnant women, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Iowa discovered that the percentage of pregnant women with spontaneous subarachnoid hemorrhage (sSAH) – which occurs without trauma to the head or neck – has increased from four to six percent within 12 years.

Black and Hispanic pregnant women had a higher proportion of sSAH during pregnancy at eight and seven percent, respectively, compared to just 3.83 percent of white women.

However, researchers said the condition is a ‘clinical conundrum’ since pregnant women who experienced sSAH fared better than non-pregnant women with the condition.

This study is the latest to show the dire health issues for pregnant women in the US, which has the highest rate of maternal deaths than any other developed country, largely due to pregnancy-related strokes.

Spontaneous subarachnoid hemorrhage is increasing among pregnant women

‘Pregnant women with spontaneous subarachnoid hemorrhage may have better outcomes than previously expected, which challenges prior findings from small, single-center reviews,’ said Dr Kaustubh Limaye, neurologist and lead author of the study.

Spontaneous subarachnoid haemorrhage, or sSAH, a condition that accounts for 0.01 to 0.08 percent of emergency room visits, occurs when there’s bleeding between the brain and the tissues that cover the brain. 

According to Medscape, symptoms of the condition include headache, dizziness, and in some cases, vision loss.  

Dr Limaye and his colleagues reviewed US records obtained for nearly 4,000 women aged 15 to 49 from 2002 and 2014 for the study, which was presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Conference in Los Angeles.  

Over the 12-year period, they found that the incidence of sSAH during pregnancy increased from four to six percent and was slightly reduced in non-pregnant women. 

The percentage of pregnant women with sSAH was highest among those between the ages of 20 and 29 years old at 20 percent and African Americans at eight percent. They found it was lowest among pregnant women between the ages of 40 and 49 years old at less than one percent. 

However, they also found that pregnant women with sSAH had better health outcomes than non-pregnant women who suffered the stroke.

Dr Limaye found that only eight percent of pregnant women admitted to the hospital with the stroke died, compared to 17 percent of women who weren’t pregnant. 

‘We need to increase awareness in the medical community about the increasing trend of spontaneous subarachnoid haemorrhage in pregnancy because management of these patients continues to be a clinical conundrum,’ Dr Limaye said. 

There’s a growing number of women experiencing stroke while pregnant. 

A 2011 study published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association found that between 1994 and 2007, there’s been a 47 percent increase in stroke during pregnancy and an 83 percent increase after childbirth.  

Researchers of the 2011 study attributed this increase to rising rates of high blood pressure, which they say increase the risk of pregnancy-related stroke up to about six times.

They said other factors like obesity, diabetes and blood clotting disorders can also increase that risk. 

The US has the highest rate of maternal deaths, largely due to preeclampsia — a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure that accounts for eight percent of maternal deaths in the US, according to the CDC.

Another big issue is that a lot of women – particularly black and Hispanic women – do not have health insurance. When they get health insurance for their pregnancy, many are already suffering from underlying conditions that could adversely affect the pregnancy. If these health issues were diagnosed earlier, they would’ve had a better pregnancy outcome.