NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Women who suffer from migraines while they are pregnant are at increased risk of having a stroke, heart attack, or other vascular disorders, according to a recent report.
"Migraines, particularly those associated with an aura or visual changes around the time of the headache, have been previously linked to stroke and heart disease in women. This study further validates the association between the two," Dr. Cheryl Bushnell, from Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, said in a statement.
The study, in the British Medical Journal, involved an analysis of data on more than 18 million pregnancies in a nationwide database. The researchers found that 185 out of every 100,000 women had migraines during pregnancy.
Women with migraines had a 15-fold higher risk of having a stroke and twice the risk of a heart attack compared to women without migraines. Migraines were also associated with increased risks of developing high blood pressure or a blood clot in the lungs.
Further studies are needed, the researchers note, to determine whether migraines actually cause the conditions identified. If so, the next step would be to see if various migraine treatments might prevent such complications during pregnancy.
Meanwhile, they advise, "For pregnant women admitted to hospital with active migraines, modifiable cardiovascular risk factors and complications of pregnancy ... should be recognized and treated."
SOURCE: British Medical Journal, online March 9, 2009.