Women who give birth early may be at greater risk of heart disease or stroke later in life, compared to women who carry their babies to term, according to a new study led by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. They found that women who delivered at 32–37 weeks had a 42% increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and those who delivered earlier than 32 weeks had more than double the risk.
The researchers analyzed health data from more than 70,000 women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study II, and adjusted for common heart disease risk factors including age and pre-pregnancy lifestyle.
The study was published February 2, 2017 in Circulation.
“Women who are delivering a preterm infant have an early warning signal for their future health,” lead author Ms. Lauren J. Tanz, SD ’18, a doctoral candidate at Harvard Chan School and a researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, told the New York Times. “They may want to take special care with their hearts and adopt a heart-healthy diet and lifestyle.”
The study’s senior author was Dr. Janet Rich-Edwards, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard Chan School, and director of developmental epidemiology at the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.