A Californian study has shown that women who have four or more children are half as likely to suffer from a stroke, making them one third less prone to cardiovascular disease.
There has long been suggestions that the emotional support offered by larger families along with increased hormones from pregnancy ensure better health for mothers later in life, but this is the first study to provide statistical backing from 1,300 women.
Lead author Marni Jacoobs of the University of California wrote in the journal Fertility and Sterility: "In conclusion, women in this study had less CVD mortality risk if they had more than four pregnancies, with the strongest association observed for non-CHD CVD mortality.
"The mechanism by which this decreased risk occurs is unknown, however, it may reflect higher fertility in healthier women, the effect of prolonged exposure to higher levels of circulating oestrogen or other hormones during pregnancy, increased endothelial function during pregnancy, or the added social support from a larger family."
Prof Don Peebles of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists wants to see more research into this area to establish whether in fact childless women who were at greater risk of CVD had adjusted the findings.
This call for more research was backed by Amy Thompson of the British Heart Foundation, who said: "Researchers found that women who had had four or more pregnancies had a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, but they couldn't say for sure why. Further research is needed before we jump to any conclusions.
"Regardless of our age, or pregnancy history, it is never too late to change our lifestyle and help to protect our hearts. We are all at risk, so quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise are great ways to start."
Posted on 28/11/2001 at 1730 by firstname.lastname@example.org