New study finds link between pregnancy loss, stillbirth and risk of stroke

Research from The BMJ has found a link between women who experience miscarriage or stillbirth and those at risk of stroke.

Research published today in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) has found a link between women who experience miscarriage or stillbirth and those at risk of a stroke, further supporting our Miscarriage Matters Report findings about the wider health complications related to pregnancy and baby loss.

The BMJ study looked at the data of 618,851 women from 8 separate studies in Australia, China, Japan, Netherlands, Sweden, the UK and the US. All were between the ages of 32 – 73 when they first took part and then followed up with for an average of 11 years.

They discovered that out of the women who had reported a miscarriage, 17% also had a higher risk of a fatal stroke compared to women with no history of pregnancy loss. For those who had 3 or more miscarriages this increased to an 82% risk of fatal stroke.

The researchers also found women who had experienced stillbirth were at a 31% higher risk of non-fatal stroke, and a 7% increased risk of fatal stroke.

Researchers from the BMJ study have suggested possible explanations could be to do with endothelial cells which help control blood clotting and blood vessel contraction. Problems with these cells might be why blood vessels get blocked or inflamed during a stroke, as well as causing problems with the placenta which may lead to pregnancy or baby loss. However, more research is needed in this area before any real conclusions can be made. 

These findings are in line with our own research published in The Lancet last year which highlighted the link between recurrent miscarriage and other health complications, such as an increase risk in heart disease and venous thromboembolism – a blood clot that starts in the vein and can cause heart attack and stroke. 

Tommy’s Midwifery Manager, Amina, says:

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“Research that gives us a better understanding of the link between miscarriage, stillbirth, cardiovascular disease and risk of stroke may be worrying for the many women and pregnant people who have experienced loss. But understanding these connections is also an opportunity to work on ways to improve our overall health, before, during and after pregnancy, to reduce this risk.

If you’re concerned, talk to your doctor about this research and the lifestyle changes such as stopping smoking, eating a healthy balanced diet and exercising regularly that can help everyone reduce their risk of heart disease.”

If you’re worried about your pregnancy, or have any questions about your own experience, we’d recommend speaking to your GP or midwife.

You can also always chat to one of our midwives if you think it might help to speak to someone else. Our team provide practical and emotional support, and will be able to help answer any questions you might have. They work Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm, and you can call them for free on 0800 014 7800 or email at [email protected]