In a new study, infertility, miscarriage and stillbirth have been linked to an increased risk of stroke.
Experts examined global data and found that women who had three or more miscarriages appeared to have a 35% increased risk of having a nonfatal or fatal stroke.
One miscarriage was associated with a 7% increased risk of nonfatal stroke, while two were associated with a 12% increased risk.
For fatal stroke, women with a miscarriage had an 8% increased risk, two were associated with a 26% increased risk, and three were associated with an 82% increased risk.
The study also found that women who suffered a stillbirth had a 31% increased risk of nonfatal stroke and a 7% increased risk of fatal stroke.
Meanwhile, recurrent stillbirth has been linked to a 26% higher risk of fatal stroke.
Infertility was also associated with a 14% higher risk of nonfatal stroke compared to fertile women.
The researchers suggested possible reasons for the findings, including that the link between infertility and increased risk of stroke may be due to conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and premature ovarian failure (POI).
Narrowing of the heart’s blood vessels may also explain the increased risk of stroke for women with a history of repeated stillbirths or miscarriages.
However, the team also said that unhealthy lifestyles contribute to stroke risk, as they called for more research in this area.
In an article in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the experts, including from the University of Queensland in Australia and University College London, concluded: “A history of recurrent miscarriage and death or loss of a baby before or during delivery could be considered a female-specific risk factor for stroke, with differences in risk across stroke subtypes.
“These results could contribute to improved surveillance and stroke prevention for women with such a history.”
For the study, the team looked at eight research groups conducted in Australia, China, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, the UK and the US.
A total of more than 600,000 women aged 32 to 73 years were enrolled at baseline, of whom 9,265 (2.8%) experienced a first nonfatal stroke, typically at age 62, and 4,003 (0.7%) suffered a fatal stroke, typically 71 years old.
Stroke was identified through self-reported questionnaires, hospital records, or national patient registries.
Fatal strokes were recorded through death registers.
Factors that can affect the results, such as body mass index and whether women have smoked, were considered. Women with nonfatal stroke before age 40 were excluded.
Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability in women worldwide.
Figures suggest that around three million women died from a stroke in 2019 and millions more live with persistent disability.