Women who became first-time mothers during their teenage years may be significantly more likely than older mothers to have greater risks for heart and blood vessel diseases later in life, according to new research. The findings showed that women reporting a first birth before the age of 20 scored significantly higher on “Framingham Risk Score” — a measure commonly used to estimate the 10-year cardiovascular risk. Conversely, women whose first births occurred at older ages had lower average risk scores. The lowest cardiovascular risk, however, was among women who had never given birth, the researchers said.
“Adolescent mothers may need to be more careful about lifestyle factors that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, including maintaining a healthy body weight and sufficient physical activity,” said lead author Catherine Pirkle, assistant professor at the University of Hawaii. “Clinicians may need to pay more careful attention to women’s reproductive characteristics, and more intensive screening of cardiovascular-disease risk may be required of women reporting early childbirths.” For the study, detailed in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the team examined 1,047 women between the ages of 65 and 74 and were from Canada, Albania, Colombia and Brazil.
However, the findings must be confirmed because this study relied on self-reports of childbirth history which could be affected by memory loss in this older population even though participants were screened for dementia. In addition, many young mothers from the poorer countries may not have survived to the ages of 64-75 years represented in the study, limiting the strength of the results, the researchers said. “If adolescent childbirth increases the risk of cardiovascular disease risk, then our findings reinforce the need to assure that girls and adolescents have sufficient sexual education and access to contraception to avoid adolescent childbearing in the first place,” Pirkle said.