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Growing number of women experience strokes during pregnancy, shortly after

Strokes caused by blood clots, doctors say

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HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – Noelia Gutierrez enjoys every minute she can playing with her little girls. 

The 30-year-old mother said just eight days after the birth of her third daughter she had a bad headache and a weird tingling in her hands.  She called 911.

"By the time I got to the hospital, I was already not talking properly. I was slurring -- dragging out my words -- not getting my words clearly across," Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez is one of a growing number of pregnant or post-partum women to experience a stroke.  

Doctors say it's basically a heart attack in the brain caused by a blood clot and is most common in African-American and Hispanic women.

"During pregnancy and shortly afterward, due to hormonal fluctuations, the blood thickens and it's known that there is an increased risk for blood clot formation," Dr. Brijesh Mehta, of Memorial Healthcare System, said.

High blood pressure, smoking and long-term use of birth control pills also play a role on clot formation and stroke.

Doctors used to believe that those clots had to be removed within a few hours to prevent brain damage, but the American Heart Association recently announced changes. Patients may have a bigger window of opportunity to get crucial  treatment.

Doctors removed Gutierrez's blood clot 12 hours after she first started having symptoms. She is a perfect example of why the guidelines are changing when it comes to stroke treatment.

"Some may have a very large stroke by the time three hours have elapsed, and others at even 18-19 hours may have a small stroke despite significant blockage," Mehta said.

Doctors will now look less at the time and concentrate more on the brain tissue. In Gutierrez's case, once the clot was removed, she started to move and talk.

"If they hadn't responded the way they did, my kids wouldn't have a mom, my parents wouldn't have a daughter, my friends wouldn't have me," she said.

Despite the changing guidelines, doctors say the sooner a patient gets medical help when they show signs of a stroke, the better their chances for a strong recovery.


 


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