Older Mums 'Have Higher Risk of Stroke'
Pregnancy-related health issues such as gestational diabetes and high blood pressure mean older mums are 60 per cent more likely to suffer a stroke later in life.
A major study of 72,000 women has concluded that women who give birth after the age of 40 are two-thirds more likely to die of cardiovascular disease.
The risk of a stroke caused by a clot was also higher in women who had become pregnant after the age of 40.
According to lead researcher Professor Adnan Qureshi, Director of the Zeenat Qureshi Stroke Institute, in St. Cloud, Minnesota, USA: "Women who have a pregnancy after the age of 40 appear to have a higher chance, 15 or 20 years down the line, of having a stroke, particularly the hemorrhagic type of stroke, which is bleeding in the brain."
Scientists believe high blood pressure may be the biggest issue, or that "the pregnancy itself in later life may cause stress on the cardiovascular system,".
The figures make for scary reading but Professor Qureshi is keen to point out that the study did not prove cause and effect. "It doesn't mean that if you become pregnant above a certain age, you are going to have a hemorrhagic stroke," he said. "This is simply an association that has been found."
The team is hoping that the work will help identify underlying issues that could be managed to help women who become pregnant after the age of 40 to avoid these risks.
"What the study suggests is, perhaps that rigorous monitoring should continue for years afterwards," concluded Professor Quereshi.
The take-away? If you're planning on becoming pregnant after the age of 40 (almost 4,000 women aged 40 and over gave birth in Ireland last year) it's in your interest to take steps to improve your cardiovascular health and monitor it carefully afterwards.