Women who experience recurrent miscarriage are more likely to have parents who suffer from heart disease says new research published today in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
The study looked at women having first births in Scotland between 1992 and 2006. It studied the relationship between women’s experience of miscarriage before their first birth and their parents’ incidence of heart disease.
A total of 74, 730 first births were looked at and linked to the hospital admission or death of a woman’s parents from cardiovascular disease.
The study found an increased incidence of ischaemic heart disease (coronary artery disease) in the parents of women who experienced multiple miscarriages before their first birth. The study found that there was a 25% increase in risk among parents of women with two previous losses and 56% increase in risk among parents of women with three or more losses. The link did not appear to be explained by other factors such as the women’s age, marital status, smoking status or socio-economic deprivation.
The researchers looked at hospital admissions for other cardiovascular disease, specifically cerebrovascular disease (stroke) or venous thromboembolism (clots in the legs or lungs) amongst parents between the years 1981 and 2006, but found no significant association. This may indicate that the association with heart disease is specific but it could also be due to the fact that these outcomes were less common and the study was less able to detect these associations.
The authors of the study suggest that the most plausible explanation for this link between recurrent miscarriage and family history of heart disease is common genetic or epigenetic risk factors for both conditions.
Dr Gordon Smith, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Cambridge University, who led the research said:
“The importance of this paper is not that these family associations could be used to predict miscarriage or heart disease. Rather, the importance is that it suggests that there may be some common biological factors explaining both outcomes. The findings are also consistent with increasing evidence that women who experience multiple miscarriages are at greater risk of later heart disease. Ultimately, better understanding of the mechanisms underlying these associations could help in identifying novel types of treatment.”
Professor Philip Steer, BJOG editor-in-chief added:
“This new research is interesting as it suggests recurrent miscarriage and ischaemic heart disease may have common genetic predispositions. Further research is needed in this field and a history of recurrent miscarriage may be clinically useful in identifying women who would benefit from screening for cardiovascular risk factors.”
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Smith G, Wood A, Pell J, Hattie J. Recurrent miscarriage is associated with a family history of ischaemic heart disease: a retrospective
cohort study. BJOG 2011; DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-0528.2010.02890.x.