Reproductive milestones in a woman’s life – like the age at which she had her first period, the age at which she first gave birth, and so on – may be linked to the woman’s risk of dying early, according to a new research.
In the study – published October 29 in the journal BMC Medicine – the researchers surveyed more than 320,000 women – who were 50 years of age (on average) when the study began – from 10 European countries on their lifestyles, diets, and medical histories. The researchers then followed the women’s lives for 13 years.
Melissa Merritt, a research fellow in cancer epidemiology at the Imperial College London, stated that:
“We observed – after controlling for other factors known to influence risk of death – that several reproductive factors were associated with a significantly lower risk of death.”
About 14,000 women died by the end of the study, including approximately 2,400 who died from strokes or heart attack, and 6,000 women who died from cancer.
The findings suggest that women who got their first periods at the age of 12 or younger, had a 10 percent higher risk of dying during the study, compared with those who got their first periods at the age of 15 or older.
Women who first gave birth when they were 20 years of age or younger, were 10 percent more likely to die over the 13 years, than those who gave birth to their first child between the ages of 26 and 30. Moreover, for the women who first gave birth even later in life – at 31 or older – the risk of dying during the study was 8 percent higher, than in women who first gave birth when they were between 26 and 30 years old.
Women who had children and had never breastfed them, had an 8 percent higher risk of dying than those who had breastfed, according to the researchers.
It is still uncertain how a woman’s risk of dying earlier in life is tied to these reproductive factors. The researchers believe that the hormonal changes – that take place during menstruation, pregnancy, and breastfeeding – may be play a role in this.
Merritt said that more research is needed to find whether this study is 100 percent accurate, and to identify what exactly links the reproductive milestones to risk of early death.
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