A new study published in the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Open Access Journal — Journal of the American Heart Association — has suggested an increased risk of heart and blood vessel disease in women who became mothers for the first time in their teenage years, when compared to older mothers.
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According to the study, women who had their first delivery before the age of 20 had a higher Framingham Risk Score, which is a commonly used measure to approximate the 10-year cardiovascular risk.
However, the average risk scores of women whose first delivery was at older ages was comparatively lower. Women who had never delivered a child had the lowest risk of heart disease.
Catherine Pirkle, Ph.D., lead author of the study and an assistant professor at the University of Hawaii, Honolulu, cautioned teen mothers to be more careful with their lifestyle choices, which might elevate the risk of heart disease, such as maintaining an appropriate level of physical activity and a healthy body weight.
She also urged physicians to provide more vigilant attention to the reproductive characteristics of women and added that women reporting early childbirths need thorough monitoring for the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Even though prior research has indicated greater cardiovascular risks among women reported with several pregnancies, the current study did not associate cardiovascular risk with the number of life-time births.
Dr. Pirkle also stated that women who had never given birth may have terminated pregnancies or miscarried, but would still have encountered drastically lower average pregnancy related complication levels.
The lower average risk scores in this group are due to the negligible or reduced durations of pregnancy associated body stress.
The researchers collected data on the age of the mother at the time of their first delivery of 1,047 women participants aged 65-74 from Brazil, Canada, Colombia and Albania, who were enrolled in the International Mobility in Aging Study in 2012.
The researchers linked heart disease risk to age at first birth with the help of Framingham Risk Score.
Though the participants were screened for dementia, there exists a need for further confirmation of the findings as the research relied on self-reported delivery history. Another limitation of the study findings was that the life-expectancy of younger mothers from poorer countries might be lower than the represented age group in the study.
The findings emphasize, that with increased health risks such as an increase in cardiovascular risks, there is a need for adequate sexual education for girls and adolescents and access to contraception in order to avoid adolescent childbearing in the first place, said Pirkle.
She added: “If the association is mediated by lower educational attainment, poorer health behaviors and other factors caused by young motherhood, then our findings also suggest a need to provide more support to young mothers.”