Stroke And HBP Found In Pregnant Women With Migraines

Happy couple finding out results of a pregnancy test( — Acccording to a new study, pregnant women who have migraines might have a higher risk haveing a stroke, high blood pressure, and blood clots.

Migraine describes a cluster of symptoms that usually includes a severe throbbing pain on one side of the head accompanied by nausea, vomiting, dizziness or extreme sensitivity to sound, light, touch and smell, according to the Migraine Research Foundation. Women who experienced migraines during pregnancy were 15 times as likely to also suffer a stroke, the study, published online today by British Medical Journal, found.

Stroke is rare in women who are expecting, about four cases for every 100,000 births, “so this relative increase is not as alarming as it might seem,” the researchers, led by Cheryl Bushnell, a neurologist at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, wrote in the paper. Still, doctors treating pregnant women admitted to hospitals with active migraines should help to reduce the risk of vascular ailments and treat pregnancy complications, the researchers said.

“This is very, very interesting,” said Anne MacGregor, director of clinical studies at the Migraine Clinic in London, in an interview. “We just have to be careful about how this is interpreted.”

Because the results are preliminary, women shouldn’t panic, said MacGregor, who wasn’t involved in the research.

Body Changes

The most probable explanation for the link is the interaction between migraines and changes in the body during pregnancy, such as increased blood volume and heart rate, which put more stress on the circulatory system, the study’s authors said. The scientists couldn’t say whether migraines cause the blood-vessel, or vascular, conditions or vice versa.

“Because these data do not allow determination of which came first, migraine or the vascular condition, prospective studies of pregnant women are needed to explore this association further,” the researchers wrote.

The study used a U.S. database of more than 18 million hospital records, identifying almost 34,000 pregnancy-related discharges with a diagnosis of migraine from 2000 to 2003. The researchers then searched the records to establish a connection to vascular complications such as heart disease, high blood pressure and blood clots.

Blood Clots

Migraines tripled the risk of venous blood clots and doubled the risk of heart disease, the study found. Women with vascular risk factors including diabetes, high blood pressure and cigarette smoking were also strongly linked to migraines.

The study only picked up a subset of afflicted patients, and may not reflect the actual situation because migraine often disappears in pregnancy, MacGregor said. Symptoms of blood-vessel conditions may have been misdiagnosed.

Migraine headache occurs in up to 26 percent of women of childbearing age and one-third of women between the ages of 35 and 39, the study said. Although very common in this age group, little is known about the prevalence of migraine during pregnancy.

The study won’t change how doctors treat their migraine patients, MacGregor said.

“This will not change clinical practice,” she said. “The strength is not there.”

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