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Stroke and Heart Disease Risk Seen in Pregnancy

Women migraineurs who continue to suffer from attacks during pregnancy may be at an increased risk for a variety of vascular problems, especially stroke. According to a large population-based study, women who have migraines during pregnancy are 15 times more likely to have a stroke than other women, three times more likely to have blood clots and twice as likely to have heart disease.

While many women see a reduction in their migraines during pregnancy, some experience more frequent and severe attacks. It is the latter women who had a higher risk of vascular problems. They were also more likely to have other risk factors, such as smoking and diabetes.

“Good prenatal care is essential. Women with persistent and severe migraine during pregnancy should be aware of their risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, history of blood clots, heart disease and prior stroke,” wrote lead investigator Cheryl Bushnell, MD, a neurologist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, in a news release. “There also seems to be a relationship between migraines and preeclampsia, one of the most common and dangerous complications of pregnancy.”

While the reason for the increased risk is still unknown, Dr. Bushnell hypothesized that “it may be that some women do not compensate as well for the increased vascular stresses of pregnancy, such as increased blood volume, stroke volume and heart rate.”

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