Some health risks posed to women through infertility
INFERTILITY increases a woman’s chance of dying early by 10%, a study has found.
Fertility problems raised the risk of death from breast cancer by 43%, and increased the chance of dying from diabetes. But having children protects women from dying prematurely, suggesting giving birth has a rejuvenating effect on the body.
The impact of having children on a woman’s lifespan has long been debated.
Some believe pregnancy and giving birth take a toll on the body, while others say infertility may point to underlying health problems.
Now a study of nearly 80 000 women lends support to the idea that infertility could point to hormonal problems that increase the chance of dying.
Research to be presented at the congress of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) in San Antonio, Texas showed infertile women had a higher risk of death from hormonerelated disorders, such as breast cancer and diabetes.
The study looked at health records of women aged 55 to 74, between 1992 and 2001.
During the study, 11 006 women (14.5%) reported infertility, classed as being unable to conceive over a year or more.
Infertile women were 10% more likely to have died by the study’s end. According to the findings, infertility was not linked to higher rates of ovarian cancer or cancers of the womb.
And even though the incidence of diabetes was similar in fertile women, infertile women experienced a 70% higher risk of dying of complications from diabetes and a 43% higher risk of dying from breast cancer.
Lead author Dr Natalie Stentz, of Pennsylvania University, said: “The study highlights the fact that a history of infertility is indeed related to women’s lifelong health and opens potential opportunities, for screening or preventive management, for infertile women.
“One of the things we do know is that having a baby at some point in a woman’s life is protective for health.
“When you look at studies of women who have never borne children, they are at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and several malignancies.
“There is certainly a rejuvenation hypothesis that, just by becoming pregnant, a woman may be at lower risk of malignancies and long-term disease,” Stentz said.
One theory of why pregnancy protects a mother’s health is “parabiosis”, or that sharing blood with a growing foetus rejuvenates the mother.
Richard J Paulson, president of the ASRM, said the study was “intriguing and potentially very important”. – Daily Mail