Women who suffer from migraines during pregnancy are 15 times more likely to have a stroke than women who do not have the condition, researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill report today.
In addition to an increased risk of stroke, pregnant women who have migraines are two times more likely to have heart disease and more than three times more likely to have blood clots and other vascular problems during pregnancy.
The study appears in this months' issue of the British Medical Journal.
"Women with persistent and severe migraine during pregnancy should be aware of their risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, history of blood clots, heart disease and prior stroke,” Dr. Cheryl Bushnell, a neurologist at Wake Forest Baptist and lead investigator of the study said in a prepared statement. “There also seems to be a relationship between migraines and preeclampsia, one of the most common and dangerous complications of pregnancy.”
The study also found that women who were 35 or older when they delivered were more likely to have migraines during pregnancy.
"While some women experience relief from migraine headaches while pregnant, others have migraines that are more frequent and severe,” Bushnell said. “The reasons these severe migraines are associated with stroke and vascular disease is not clear but it may be that some women do not compensate as well for the increased vascular stresses of pregnancy, such as increased blood volume, stroke volume and heart rate. Regardless of the cause, active migraine during pregnancy should be viewed as a potential marker of vascular disease.”