Research has emerged about the link between pregnancy complications and a higher risk of stroke. A Wisconsin health expert suggests it’s a risk that might be flying under the radar amid positive trends for other populations. May is National Stroke Awareness Month – and this is also National Women’s Health Week. A study out this year notes that women with two or more complicated pregnancies had double the risk for stroke before age 45. Cassie Nankee, a vascular neurologist at the University of Wisconsin, says it shows while there’s been brighter news on this front for the general public, pregnant women are isolated. “Even more striking is that the prevalence of maternal stroke is higher in the U.S. than in any other developed nation. So, I think that’s where we’re seeing a lot of this data coming out and really demonstrating this huge problem.” Nankee said.

Nankee says prevention efforts, such as limiting tobacco use, have helped to reduce stroke rates more broadly. But she adds there are unique and traditional risk factors for pregnant women, including higher blood pressure rates, that still need to be monitored. Nankee encourages providers to offer plenty of support and education to patients about these risks.

Nankee, who is also an American Heart Association board member, says when interacting with new or expectant mothers, doctors should offer a safe space that allows the patients to open up about their health. “A lot of women are not even cleared to go back to regular activity and are oftentimes not even back to work in that period, and they lose their insurance coverage. And so, this can be a really big problem with a significant impact on these women.”

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