Women who give birth prematurely may be at increased risk for coronary heart disease, a new study has found, and the risk could persist for decades.
Researchers reviewed 2,189,190 singleton births in Sweden from 1973 to 2015. They found 49,955 diagnoses of coronary heart disease among the mothers.
In the first 10 years after delivery, compared with women who delivered at 39 to 41 weeks’ gestation, those who delivered earlier than 37 weeks had almost two and a half times the risk for heart disease. Even women who delivered only slightly early, at 37 to 38 weeks, were at a 47 percent increased risk, and the earlier the delivery, the higher the risk. The study is in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Adjusted for the mother’s age, the increased risk persisted as long as 43 years after the birth. A sub-analysis of over a million sisters who delivered at different times showed that the associations were almost certainly not attributable to shared genetic or environmental factors. Preterm birth itself remained a strong independent risk factor.
“Preterm delivery should now be recognized as a risk factor for heart disease in women,” said the lead author, Dr. Casey Crump, a professor of family medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, “and women with a history of preterm delivery would need earlier intervention to reduce other risk factors.”