I had never heard of a postpartum stroke before I had one. I knew about strokes, and I had known other people who’d experienced them. I was aware of the symptoms. Even so, I was shocked when I suddenly experienced them at 34. Here are my tips for those who might also experience a postpartum stroke.
My son remained in the hospital due to injuries for several days after his birth. During that time, I was home alone for part of every day. One day, while walking down the corridor, I suddenly lost the use of my right leg. I had trouble breathing. I instantly found myself dragging my leg behind me in mid-stride. I felt an overwhelming sense of panic overcome me. What was happening? What was this? Was I having a stroke? Because of my son’s recent injuries, I found myself unable to call 911. I was terrified that I could not receive proper care. Instead, I called my mother. She picked me up and immediately took me to my ob/gyn. I wish I could say I received the care I needed there. I was dismissed as being emotional. Since my blood pressure was normal, he refused to consider what was really going on with me. It was one of the most frightening mornings of my life.
In the days after that, I consulted with another ob/gyn. He said he was almost certain that I had had a stroke. He was shocked and angry that my doctor hadn’t send me to the hospital. I suffered muscle atrophy in my right leg. Walking remained challenging for a time, but did get better. I could have easily experienced much worse complications. I was so lucky that my stroke wasn’t more serious. My right leg continued to bother me, and there was visible muscle atrophy for years afterward. I gradually improved, but I might not have suffered much at all. If I had gone to the hospital immediately, I could have faced minimal complications.
Here are my tips: go immediately! Strokes can be easily treated, but only if you arrive quickly at the ER. Sudden loss of one limb or one side of the body is a serious symptom. Strokes don’t only occur in the brain. Speech or cognitive problems are not the only symptoms. Strokes don’t only happen to the elderly. Postpartum days are a particularly vulnerable window of time for women. Difficulty breathing doesn’t mean you’re having an anxiety attack. It can be a symptom, especially with loss of only one side of the body.
I would wish that no other woman ever experiences a postpartum stroke. But, for those that do, take the symptoms seriously. Both you and your baby deserve proper care.