Women who experience more than one pregnancy loss — including miscarriage and stillbirth — are at greater risk for heart attack later in life, according to a study of more than 11,000 European women.
Researchers examined the medical histories of participants in the long-term European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), and found that 25% had experienced at least one miscarriage and 2% had experienced a stillbirth. Among this same group, 82 women had a heart attack and 112 had a stroke. (More on Time.com: 5 Pregnancy Taboos Explained (or Debunked))
Researchers found that women who had had at least one stillbirth were 3.5 times more likely to have a heart attack in later life, compared with women who did not experience stillbirth. In women who had more than stillbirth, each event increased her likelihood of heart attack by 2.65 times.
Women who had multiple miscarriages had an even greater heart risk. Researchers found that those who had had at least three miscarriages were five times as likely to have a heart attack as women with no miscarriages, after adjusting for other factors, such as weight, smoking and alcohol consumption. Each miscarriage increased heart attack risk by 40%.
The researchers found no similar heart risks for women the 2,053 women who had undergone abortions. (More on Time.com: Photos: Pregnant Belly Art)
While the authors do not know why miscarriage may be associated with heart attack, they suggest that women who have experienced stillbirths or multiple pregnancy losses should be monitored for cardiovascular disease.