Having a premature birth could increase a woman’s risk of heart disease even years later

New European research has found that women who give birth before term may have an increased 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 Birth Registry, which contains almost all of 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 single deliveries and who were classified into six groups according to the time of delivery: extremely premature (22-27 weeks), very premature (28-33 weeks), late premature ( 34-36 weeks), early term (37-38 weeks), full term (39-41 weeks, study 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 after delivery, women who gave birth prematurely and prematurely had an increased risk of IC, compared to women who delivered light to term. Those who gave birth prematurely had a 2.5-fold increased risk of IC, while those who delivered extremely prematurely had a four-fold increased risk. Women who delivered at term also had a 1.4-fold increased risk.

The results were also valid after taking into account other risk factors, such as body mass index (BMI), smoking, pre-eclampsia and diabetes. After studying the sisters of the women who also had children, the risk also appeared to be unrelated to shared genetic or environmental factors in the families.

The researchers note that the increased risk eventually decreased, 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 labor should now be recognized as an independent risk factor for DHI throughout life,” said Casey Crump, MD, PhD, the study’s principal investigator. “Cardiovascular risk assessment in women should routinely include a reproductive history that covers preterm labor and other complications of pregnancy. Women with a history of premature labor may warrant early preventive actions to reduce other risk factors for IHD, such as obesity, inactivity and smoking, and term monitoring for timely detection and treatment of IHD

Preterm labor is defined as any labor that occurs before 37 weeks. It occurs in approximately 9.6 percent of births in the United States each year. It has already been discovered that women who give birth prematurely have an increased future risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and hyperlipidemia, which are important risk factors for IHD.