Do Pregnancy, Childbirth, or Menopause Lead to Stroke?
Pregnancy and Childbirth
Other studies have demonstrated that pregnancy and childbirth can put a woman at an increased risk for stroke. Women who are pregnant have a 3 to 13 times greater risk of having a stroke than women who are not pregnant. Of course, the risk of stroke in young women of childbearing years is very small to begin with, so a moderate increase in risk during pregnancy is still a relatively small risk. Pregnancy and childbirth cause strokes in approximately 8 in 100,000 women. Unfortunately, 25 percent of strokes during pregnancy end in death, and hemorrhagic strokes, although rare, are still the leading cause of maternal death in the United States. Subarachnoid hemorrhage in particular, causes 1 to 5 maternal deaths per 10,000 pregnancies.
One study showed that the risk of stroke during pregnancy is greatest in the post-partum period, which is the six weeks following childbirth. The risk of ischemic stroke after pregnancy is about 9 times higher and the risk of hemorrhagic stroke is more than 28 times greater for post-partum women than for women who are not pregnant or post-partum. The cause is unknown.
In the same way that the hormonal changes during pregnancy and childbirth are associated with increased risk of stroke, hormonal changes at the end of the childbearing years can increase the risk of stroke. Several studies have shown that menopause, which is the end of a woman's reproductive ability marked by the termination of her menstrual cycle, can increase a woman's risk of stroke. Fortunately, some studies have suggested that hormone replacement therapy can reduce some of the effects of menopause and decrease stroke risk.
(Click Stroke Risk Factors for more information on specific risks for stroke.)