Fetal stroke occurs during pregnancy between 14 weeks of gestation and the beginning of labor. It has been linked to postnatal epilepsy and cerebral palsy. The result of fetal stroke in 78 percent of cases was death or adverse neurodevelopment from ages three months to six years. A fetal stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is obstructed or reduced, and it frequently results in the destruction of brain cells.
There are two categories of fetal strokes:
1. Hemorrhagic strokes, which take place when trauma causes damage to the brain’s blood vessels.
2. Ischemic strokes, which take place when clots obstruct brain arteries.
One of the causes of fetal stroke is a lack of oxygen to the infant’s brain. Another factor that results in fetal stroke is a difficult delivery due to contusions in the brain, tearing and stretching of blood vessels and brain tissue, bleeding of the brain, changes in the flow of blood, and the creation of blood clots inside blood vessels.
Furthermore, fetal stroke can result from preeclampsia, which is a condition in which mothers experience high blood pressure, which can eventually diminish the flow of blood to the baby. Prenatal infections can also cause stroke, and babies can develop such infections when amniotic membranes burst prior to labor. When a bacterial infection causes inflammation of the membrane, the resulting condition is called chorioamnonitis. If the baby is not treated right away, there is a risk that the baby will develop meningitis, which can result in fetal stroke. When the placenta is separated from the uterus, there can be excessive bleeding, which frequently leads to a marked reduction in the flow of blood to the baby’s brain.
One of the injuries with which fetal stroke is associated is hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), which is a condition in which reduced oxygen to a baby’s brain leads to destruction of cells and harm to the central nervous system. Other related injuries include recurring strokes, seizures, intellectual disability and loss of vision.
Fetal stroke can be caused by the negligence of physicians or other health care professionals, who may have failed to carefully watch for signs of fetal distress at the time of labor and delivery. Upon observing signs of fetal distress, the doctor may have neglected to order and perform an emergency C-section. Or there may have been an improper evaluation, testing, diagnosis and treatment of the symptoms of fetal stroke.