What causes stroke during pregnancy?

Updated: Aug 20, 2019
  • Author: Carmel Armon, MD, MSc, MHS; Chief Editor: Stephen A Berman, MD, PhD, MBA  more...
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Ischemic strokes account for 85% of all strokes. [75] Causes of ischemic stroke in pregnancy may be divided into 2 general categories: pregnancy-specific etiologies and stroke-in-the-young factors.

The first category includes the following:

  • Preeclampsia [76] and eclampsia – These are present in 24-47% of ischemic strokes and 14-44% of intracranial hemorrhages [72, 74]

  • Choriocarcinoma

  • Amniotic fluid embolism

  • Peripartum cardiomyopathy

  • Postpartum cerebral angiopathy – This rare and reversible condition causes narrowing of the blood vessels, which can lead to ischemia [68, 72]

Causes of stroke in a young person include the following:

  • Atherothrombotic etiologies

  • Cardioembolic events

  • Lacunar disease

  • Other vasculopathy (eg, fibromuscular dysplasia [FMD], dissection, or arteritis)

  • Hematologic disorders

  • Drugs (eg, cocaine)

  • Migraine

  • Unknown causes

Some causes in this category are less common in stroke than in other settings; they occur most frequently in relatively young women. [75]

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