Premature births tied to increase risk of heart disease
An analysis of 10 pregnancy studies published in The European Journal of Preventive Cardiology finds that women who deliver preterm babies are more likely to have a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular conditions.
Researchers looked at data from pregnancy studies within various sample sizes and tracked their progress after giving birth. The study compared the results from two separate groups; those who gave birth before 37 weeks (not as a result of medical induction) and those who gave birth at 37 weeks or later. The women were monitored up to 35 years after having the baby.
In the United States, about 12 percent of all births are preterm and 70 percent of those are spontaneous or not induced.
Cases of preeclampsia and hypertension were excluded from the study due to the links between the conditions and heart disease being well-established.
The study found that women with a history of spontaneous preterm delivery had a 38 percent increased risk of heart disease that involved blocked vessels. While women with a preterm delivery had a 71 percent risk of stroke.
Many women who experience spontaneous preterm delivery already have heart disease risk factors, said researcher Dr. Karst Heida, in a statement.
“That means the risk factors for heart disease, including high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes, may also play a role in preterm delivery. The study is needed to determine the cause-and-effect relationship between the two conditions.”
Heida said it’s too soon to include spontaneous preterm delivery on accepted heart disease risk charts or in prevention guidelines.
Dr. Anna Craioveanu, a family practice physician at Advocate Medical Group, stressed that having a baby before 37 weeks isn’t the necessary cause for alarm. But it could be reason for both mom and her doctor to pause and think about heart health.
“This could be another way for physicians to identify women who have a higher risk of developing heart disease, and then intervene and prevent a serious cardiac event,” Dr. Craioveanu says.
“But no matter when she delivers, mom should watch her heart risk indicators, to live a long healthy life for herself and her baby.”
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.