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Postpartum Stroke - Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention

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Postpartum stroke is caused during pregnancy or in women who have given birth due to high blood pressure. Read the article to know more about it.

Written by

Dr. Osheen Kour

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Richa Agarwal

Published At March 23, 2023
Reviewed AtMarch 23, 2023

Introduction

Postpartum is the period precisely after a woman gives birth to a baby, and postpartum stroke in women is a rare condition caused by high blood pressure during pregnancy. A stroke can produce various symptoms in a woman that can be severe and can lead to lifelong medical conditions. For example, pregnancy-related stroke often leads to bleeding in the brain and the formation of blood clots which can be fatal. In addition, these strokes can be ischemic or hemorrhagic, leading to an increase in mortality and morbidity of women during pregnancy. Postpartum stroke can be fatal if not treated on time and thus need proper medical intervention to minimize the health risks in pregnancy.

What Are the Symptoms Caused by Postpartum Stroke?

The symptoms caused by postpartum stroke are as follows:

  • Severe headache occurs suddenly without any specific cause.

  • Loss of vision can also occur.

  • Dizziness, lack of coordination, loss of balance, and trouble walking.

  • Weakness and numbness in the legs, arms, and face also happen.

  • Confusion and difficulty in speaking.

What Are the Factors Causing Postpartum Stroke During Pregnancy?

The risk factors associated with postpartum stroke include:

  • Gestational Diabetes- This type of diabetes occurs in women during pregnancy with a sudden increase in blood sugar levels. The condition occurs in one out of 10 women who are pregnant. Gestational diabetes usually subsides after pregnancy but can increase the risk of stroke and heart disease in a woman in later life.

  • High Blood Pressure - Pregnant women or women who have delivered a baby often develop high blood pressure, which can lead to a stroke. The condition mainly occurs in almost 10% to 12% of pregnant women and causes a postpartum stroke.

  • Blood Clots - Postpartum stroke is also caused due to the formation of a blood clot in pregnant women. The condition is caused due to improper circulation of blood in the lower limb region of the body. It is also caused because a woman’s body produces some clotting substances during pregnancy, which helps reduce bleeding during delivery. But this condition can increase the risk of stroke in a woman.

  • Preeclampsia - It is a severe form of hypertension causing headaches, swelling in the face and hands, low birth weights, loss of vision, and premature deliveries. The condition can further lead to seizures and stroke in pregnant women. As a result, a woman can develop heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, and high blood pressure in later life.

What Are the Medical Conditions that Cause Postpartum Stroke?

The medical conditions that can increase the risk of developing postpartum stroke include the following medical conditions:

What Are the Risk Factors for Postpartum Stroke During Pregnancy?

The following reasons can cause postpartum stroke during pregnancy:

  • Long labor can also lead to postpartum stroke to high blood pressure.

  • C-section or cesarean-section deliveries can cause a stroke.

  • Pregnancy with more than one baby can also cause stroke in women.

  • Presence of clotting or bleeding disorders in a woman.

  • Premature delivery due to postpartum hemorrhage.

What Are the Preventive Measures to Be Followed During Pregnancy?

The preventive measures to be followed during pregnancy are as follows:

  • First, eat healthy food rich in nutrients such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts that control blood sugar and blood pressure during pregnancy.

  • Women should avoid smoking and tobacco products as they can lead to the risk of stroke during pregnancy.

  • Women should try to maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy as it helps lower blood pressure and keeps blood sugar in control.

  • Pregnant women should stay active on regular days to stay fit and healthy.

  • A person should get regular medical checkups to help the doctor monitor blood pressure and blood glucose regularly. Proper follow-ups with the doctor will help to reduce postpartum stroke risks in women.

How Is a Postpartum Stroke Diagnosed?

The healthcare provider can diagnose postpartum stroke in the following ways:

  • CT scan or computed tomography of the brain is done, and it has less radiation risk to the baby.

  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) without a contrast agent is also safe during any gestational period for diagnosis.

  • The doctor also does blood pressure monitoring.

  • The blood glucose test is done to monitor blood sugar levels.

  • The lab person also performs a urine test.

How Is a Postpartum Stroke Managed?

The doctor can manage postpartum stroke by treating the factors that cause the condition during or after pregnancy. These include:

  • Gestational diabetes occurring during pregnancy can be treated by the healthcare provider with medication, continuous blood sugar or glucose monitoring, and adapting to a healthy lifestyle.

  • The doctor can manage preeclampsia with the help of medication that lowers the blood pressure, medicines for seizures (magnesium sulfate), and blood thinners or anticoagulants to reduce the blood clot.

  • Anticoagulants and antihypertensive drugs are usually given to treat the symptoms of a postpartum stroke.

The treatment and management of postpartum stroke are challenging for the doctor due to pregnancy, but timely medical care can improve the outcomes and intensity of the effects.

What Are the Other Common Postpartum Complications?

  • Cardiovascular diseases.

  • Anesthesia complications.

  • Infection and sepsis.

  • Excessive bleeding in a woman after pregnancy or delivery.

  • Cardiomyopathy.

  • Thrombotic pulmonary embolism.

  • Amniotic fluid embolism.

Conclusion

Postpartum stroke is a rare condition occurring in women during or after pregnancy due to the sudden rise in blood pressure. Various factors can cause health issues during pregnancy that affect both women and newly born babies. A postpartum stroke occurs most commonly in cesarean section deliveries and produces sudden warning signs. Women experiencing these symptoms must consult the doctor immediately to get the proper medical intervention during pregnancy. Also, women should take preventive measures to avoid postpartum stroke by eating a healthy diet to control blood pressure and glucose levels.

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Dr. Richa Agarwal
Dr. Richa Agarwal

Obstetrics and Gynecology

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