Migraine In Pregnancy Can Lead To Stroke

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Migraine In Pregnancy

Migraine headaches that occur during pregnancy can put women and risk for stroke, high blood pressure, and other vascular diseases such as blood clots and heart disease. The large study looked at over 18 million hospital discharge records to find the association between migraine headache and blood vessel disease during pregnancy.

Between 2000 and 2003, the researchers found evidence 33,956 pregnant women with a discharge diagnosis of migraine headache. The data also showed that older pregnant women were more likely to experience migraine headache during pregnancy than were women under age 20. Migraine headache during pregnancy occurred in white women more than any other ethnic group.


The study found that though stroke during pregnancy is rare, migraine headache during pregnancy increased stroke risk fifteen fold, as well as tripling the risk of blood clots. The risk of heart disease associated with migraine headache during pregnancy doubled. The findings were independent of eclampsia.

The researchers say the most likely explanation that migraine headache during pregnancy puts women at risk for stroke is increased blood volume, which puts more stress on the vascular system.

Only four cases per 100,000 births are associated with women who have strokes during pregnancy. The study results suggest increased vigilance from physicians toward reducing complications and reducing cardiovascular risk factors in pregnant women enter the hospital with a diagnosis of migraine headache. Further studies should clarify how pregnancy and migraine headache leads to stroke.