Having a preterm birth could increase a woman’s risk of heart disease even years later
New European research has found that women who give birth before they reach full term may have a higher risk of developing ischemic heart disease (IHD) later in life.
Led by researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, the new study used data taken from the Swedish Medical Birth Registry, which contains nearly all the prenatal and birth information for deliveries in Sweden between 1973 and 2015.
In total, the researchers had access to information on 2,189,190 women who had singleton deliveries and who were categorized into six groups based on when they gave birth: extremely preterm (22-27 weeks), very preterm (28-33 weeks), late preterm (34-36 weeks), early term (37-38 weeks), full-term (39-41 weeks, study’s reference group) and post-term (42 weeks or more).
The findings, published Monday in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, showed that in the 10 years following giving birth, the women who delivered preterm and early term had a higher risk of IHD, compared to women who delivered full term. Those who delivered preterm had a 2.5-fold risk of IHD, while those who delivered extremely preterm had a four-fold risk. Women who delivered early term also had a 1.4-fold increased risk.
The results also held true after taking into account other risk factors such as body mass index (BMI), smoking status, preeclampsia and diabetes. After studying sisters of the women who also had children, the risk also seemed to be unrelated to shared genetic or environmental factors in families.
The researchers note that the increased risk did eventually decline, but still remained high even 30 to 43 years after delivery. They add that the findings now suggest that a woman’s reproductive history should also be routinely included in cardiovascular risk assessments.
“Preterm delivery should now be recognized as an independent risk factor for IHD across the life course,” said Casey Crump, MD, PhD, a lead researcher of the study. “Cardiovascular risk assessment in women should routinely include reproductive history that covers preterm delivery and other pregnancy complications. Women with a history of preterm delivery may warrant early preventive actions to reduce other IHD risk factors, including obesity, physical inactivity and smoking, and long-term monitoring for timely detection and treatment of IHD.”
Preterm delivery is defined as any birth that occurs before 37 weeks. It occurs in about 9.6% of births in the U.S. every year. Women who deliver preterm have already been found to have an increased future risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and hyperlipidemia, which are all big risk factors for IHD. NVG