An unexpected “bump” in pregnancy for mum-to-be

August 22, 2016

"When you hear the word stroke you think the worst … so I started to freak out"

Morning sickness, tiredness and headaches are to be expected when you’re pregnant, but for 25-year-old Mitchelton resident, Alana Hitchcock, having a stroke was never a consideration.

So when Alana felt dizziness and then numbness on her left side she just put the odd feeling down to “some weird baby thing”.

When she had a similar episode the following day she went to Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH) where doctors told her she’d had a stroke – quite the shock for Alana who was just over 20 weeks pregnant.

Alana Hitchcock
Alana Hitchcock

Alana thought the worse

“When you hear the word stroke you think the worst … not being able to use your arms or legs anymore, so I started to freak out,” says Alana.

With no history of stroke in her family, except for a grandparent who suffered one in old age, Alana never entertained the thought that she’d be at risk.

Stroke is not uncommon in the 20-30 age group

But Dr Andrew Wong, RBWH Director of Neurology and Stroke says unfortunately they do see a lot of people in the 20 to 30 age group.

“About 20 per cent of stroke patients we see are under 55,” says Dr Wong.  “The causes of stroke are similar to those of a heart attack.  With younger patients, the cause of their stroke can be less obvious and unusual and we need to go looking for it,” he says.

These causes can include inherited conditions that affect the clotting of blood, damage to particular blood vessels supplying those parts of     the brain or abnormalities within the heart.

Alana’s tests

After a CT scan, two MRIs and an ultrasound of her heart and the arteries in her neck, doctors couldn’t find the cause of Alana’s stroke.

“I’m a bit worried now, a bit paranoid.”

Alana says, “I asked the doctors if it’s common to have a stroke while pregnant, they said they only get about three a year.”

Dr Wong says a stroke in pregnancy can have something to do with how the blood clots, but there isn’t much data to go by because of the small number of pregnant women who have suffered stroke.

Fears during childbirth

While Alana admits to being a bit frightened about childbirth and having a stroke while in labour, she’s been reassured by Dr Wong.

“I’m happy with Alana’s case and I’ve told her not to overthink the plans she’s already made for the impending birth of her first child,” says Dr Wong.

“Ten years ago we didn’t have any imaging technology that could confirm a patient was having a stroke, nor could we physically remove a clot … now we can.”

Current research is looking into the mechanical or physical removal of clots when strokes are caused by blockages. Trials are also being carried out to try to prevent a second stroke from occurring.

Stroke research – how you can help

Fancy a lunch, good company and doing some good? Well funds raised at the upcoming Master Stroke Business Lunch, hosted by former Wallaby and stroke survivor Dan Crowley, will go towards stroke research being conducted at RBWH. Book now!

Pullman Hotel, cnr Ann and Roma St Brisbane
2nd September, 2016
Midday to 3.30 pm
Cost : $150 Single. Book – here

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