Cerebrovascular Disease in Pregnancy

Curr Treat Options Neurol. 2003 Sep;5(5):391-407. doi: 10.1007/s11940-003-0030-z.


Stroke during pregnancy is a special category of stroke in young women. Although the absolute risk is small, there are diverse causes, including those inherent to the pregnant state, that may have a significant impact on maternal and fetal outcome. Severe pre-eclampsia and eclampsia are commonly associated with ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke, but must not be presumed the sole cause of stroke in pregnant women. Magnesium sulfate is the treatment of choice to prevent eclampsia. Randomized clinical trials in pregnant women are not available to provide guidance for the treatment of ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke in pregnant women. Various antithrombotic agents may be safely used during specific stages of pregnancy for treatment and prevention of ischemic stroke, with low-dose aspirin, unfractionated heparin, and low molecular weight heparin the preferred agents. Low molecular weight heparin may be safer than unfractionated heparin. Treatment of parenchymatous intracerebral hemorrhage and subarachnoid hemorrhage during pregnancy and the puerperium must be individualized. Aneurysms may be treated with neurosurgical clipping or endovascular coiling, depending on neurosurgical considerations. Cesarean or vaginal delivery may be used depending on the timing of delivery, adequacy of aneurysm occlusion, and risk to mother and fetus. Arteriovenous malformations are best treated in a multimodal fashion at a specialized treatment center.