Haemorrhagic strokes in pregnancy and puerperium
There is an increased risk of strokes in pregnancy and puerperium. Intracranial haemorrhage is the rarer of the two stroke subtypes but carries a greater morbidity and mortality for both the mother and the child. This review highlights the causes of pregnancy-related intracranial haemorrhage and its management. The incidence varies from region to region with the highest being reported from China and Taiwan. Majority of these haemorrhages are secondary to hypertensive disorders of pregnancy with smaller proportions related to aneurysm and arteriovenous malformation rupture. A small but important contributor is cortical venous thrombosis which, although predominantly gives rise to ischaemic lesions, may lead to parenchymal haemorrhages as well. Presentation is usually with headaches or seizures, with or without focal deficits. Diagnosis requires brain imaging with computerized tomography or magnetic resonance imaging, and the necessity of investigation when this diagnosis is suspected supersedes the small risk of fetal malformation. Management follows the general management principles for intracranial haemorrhage management. Blood pressures need to be strictly monitored and medicines used for controlling them may differ slightly due to teratogenic effects. For preeclampsia, early but safe delivery is the best treatment. For cortical venous thrombosis, low-molecular-weight heparin is the preferred agent. Aneurysms and vascular malformations need to be definitively treated to prevent re-bleed and this can be achieved through surgical or endovascular procedures. The timing of surgery depends on neurosurgical considerations. However, the timing and mode of delivery are governed by obstetric factors. Risk of future haemorrhage depends on whether the underlying aetiology can be and has been definitively treated.