Research from the UK’s University of Cambridge and the University of North Carolina in the US has revealed women have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease from pregnancy losses and having five or more children.

The study found that women who experience a pregnancy loss and do not go on to have children are at an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease and stroke in later life.

As part of the study, researchers analysed health service data on cardiovascular disease over a 30-year period from 1987-2016 and self-reported data collected from more than 8,500 white and African-American women aged 45 to 64 years in the US.

The self-reported data included the number of pregnancies and births and breastfeeding practices.

“Conditions such as heart disease and stroke together are the leading cause of death in women in the developed world and it is essential that we understand why this is the case.”

Researchers found that 138 women who reported having experienced pregnancy loss and no live-born children were at a 64% greater risk of coronary heart disease and a 46% greater risk of heart failure.

A total of 1,694 women who reported five or more births had a 38% higher risk of having a serious heart attack compared to women who had one or two children, regardless of how long they breastfed for.

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According to the team, there may be several possible reasons for the link between cardiovascular risk and multiple births. Repeated pregnancies are expected to result in long-lasting changes within the body.

University of Cambridge Homerton College department of public health and primary care junior research fellow Dr Clare Oliver-Williams said: “Conditions such as heart disease and stroke together are the leading cause of death in women in the developed world and it is essential that we understand why this is the case.

“Our work suggests that there is a relation between cardiovascular disease risk and both pregnancy loss and having a large number of births.”

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Health and Human Services in the US, as well as the British Heart Foundation and Homerton College, University of Cambridge, in the UK provided funding for the research.