BOSTON — Having a miscarriage is both physically and emotionally devastating for expectant mothers. Experts now warn of another frightening finding for women who lose their baby in the womb. A recent study reports that women who miscarry have almost a 20% higher chance of dying before their 70th birthday, particularly from cardiovascular disease. This is compared to those with other pregnancy outcomes.
“Spontaneous abortion” – the official term for a miscarriage – is one of the most common adverse outcomes of pregnancy, affecting an estimated 12% to 24% of known pregnancies. Substantial evidence suggests that women with a history of miscarriage have a higher risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, and Type 2 diabetes. However, evidence relating miscarriage to risk of early death were scarce and inconsistent.
The findings, published by the British Medical Journal, show the link between miscarriage and an early death was particularly strong for young moms-to-be who had a miscarriage or repeat miscarriages. This prompted researchers to suggest that miscarriage could be “an early marker of future health risk in women.”
“Our results suggest that spontaneous abortion could be an early marker of future health risk in women, including premature death. More research is needed to establish how spontaneous abortion is related to women’s long term health and the mechanisms underlying these relations,” the authors write.
To explore this further, researchers investigated links between miscarriage and risk of death by all causes, as well as risk of early death by specific cause. Their findings are based on data from 101,681 US female nurses taking part in the ongoing Nurses’ Health Study II.
At the beginning of the study, participants were of reproductive age and their pregnancies and health were followed over a 24-year period between 1993 and 2017. The women completed questionnaires every second year and were asked about pregnancies and their outcomes as well as lifestyle factors and health related conditions.
The researchers found that around one quarter of the participants had at least one pregnancy ending in miscarriage. Also, during the follow-up, there had been 2,936 premature deaths among the women, including 1,346 cancer deaths and 269 cardiovascular disease deaths.
Death rates from all causes were comparable for women with and without a history of miscarriage. However, death rates were higher for women experiencing three or more miscarriages, and for women reporting their first miscarriage before the age of 24. In all, the study reports that having a miscarriage raises the risk of early death by 19% compared to those who did not miscarry. Researchers say the risk was greater for women who suffered multiple miscarriages.
When cause specific mortality was evaluated, the link between miscarriage and premature death was strongest for cardiovascular deaths, with a 48% heightened risk. This was not related to premature death from cancer.
The researchers were also able to account for various reproductive characteristics, lifestyle and health related factors that may have otherwise affected the results.
Since the study was observational, these results are limited and, therefore, cannot establish a cause.
SWNS writer Laura Sharman contributed to this report.