ISLAMABAD: Although strokes rarely occur among women during pregnancy and just after birth, the rates of incidence have made an alarming jump over the past decade. According to a study from the Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Division of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of stroke-related hospitalizations for new moms and mothers-to-be has increased by a disturbing 54 percent in the last twelve years.

While the total number of pregnancy-related stroke hospitalizations recorded in America during the period from 1994 to 1995 was 4,085, the number soared to 6,293 for the period from 2006 to 2007.  

Lead study author Elena Kuklina, an epidemiologist at the CDC Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, told AFP, “We were alarmed” by the study results. She then added, “We expected to see some increase but we were surprised by the amount.”

The study was based on the analysis of records from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, a database that includes from 5 million to 8 million discharge records from 1,000 hospitals. During the study period, strokes were detected in about 71 of every 100,000 delivery hospitalizations.

The findings showed that rate of stroke rose approximately 47 percent in women prior to giving birth, and about 83 percent among new moms within twelve weeks after giving birth. The most stroke-related hospitalizations occurred among women aged 25 to 34.

Although the incidence of stroke remains low among women in the U.S. who are pregnant or have given birth within three months (only three-quarters of a percent), Kuklina noted that the need for more research to determine the cause of the rising numbers is clear.

Little research has been done on the issue to date due to the exclusion of pregnant women from many clinical trials because of the potential for drugs to cause harm to the fetus. In the search for published medical literature on the issue, Kuklina was only able to find information on a mere eleven cases of pregnancy-related stroke.