The decreasing incidence of direct causes of maternal death over the past half century has led to a heightened awareness of nonobstetric factors responsible for maternal mortality. For example, cerebrovascular accidents are an important nonobstetric cause of maternal morbidity and mortality. During the 6.5-year period from 1984 to mid-1990, we encountered 15 women in whom pregnancy or the puerperium was complicated by an acute cerebrovascular accident. Six of these women had hemorrhagic strokes and nine had ischemic strokes. During this same time, approximately 90,000 women were delivered at Parkland Memorial Hospital, and thus the incidence of stroke was about one in 6000 pregnancies. Chronic hypertension or preeclampsia was causative in three cases of hemorrhagic stroke. It is important that 20% of the women died as a result of stroke, and of the 12 survivors, 40% have residual neurologic deficits. An aggressive work-up to define the etiology of stroke is necessary in order to implement cause-specific management, with subsequent reduction in morbidity and mortality.
© 1991 The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists