Maternal Stroke: an Update

Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2019 Jun 22;21(9):33. doi: 10.1007/s11883-019-0798-2.


Purpose of the review: Maternal morbidity and mortality is rising in the USA, and maternal stroke is a major contributor. Here, we review the epidemiology, risk factors, and current recommendations for diagnosis and acute treatment of ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke during pregnancy and postpartum, focusing on recent evidence.

Recent findings: The incidence of maternal stroke has risen in recent years, possibly due to increasing rates of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. The risk of maternal stroke is highest in the peripartum and early postpartum period. Preeclampsia is highly associated with reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome and posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome and is also associated with long-term increased risk of stroke and vascular dementia. Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, migraine, and infections are risk factors for maternal stroke. Limited data suggest that thrombolytics and endovascular reperfusion therapy are safe and effective in pregnant women with ischemic stroke, but few data are available regarding safety of thrombolytics in the postpartum period. New consensus guidelines are now available to assist with management of ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke in pregnancy. Many gaps remain in our understanding of maternal stroke. While risk factors have been identified, there are no prediction tools to help identify which women might be at highest risk for postpartum stroke and require closer monitoring. The risk of recurrent maternal stroke has not been adequately quantified, limiting clinicians' ability to counsel patients. The complex pathophysiology of preeclampsia and its effects on the cerebral vasculature require further targeted study. An increased focus on the prevention, recognition, and optimal treatment of maternal stroke will be critical to reducing maternal morbidity and mortality.

Keywords: Cerebral venous thrombosis; Intracranial hemorrhage; Preeclampsia; Pregnancy; Reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome; Stroke.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain Ischemia / complications
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Intracranial Hemorrhages / complications
  • Maternal Mortality
  • Posterior Leukoencephalopathy Syndrome / complications
  • Postpartum Period
  • Pre-Eclampsia
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Factors
  • Stroke / epidemiology*
  • Stroke / etiology
  • Stroke / mortality
  • Stroke / therapy
  • Young Adult