Infertility and pregnancy loss linked to higher stroke risk in women

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A large-scale study published in The BMJ has shown that women with a history of infertility, miscarriage, or stillbirth are at an elevated risk of suffering a stroke in later life.

The research aimed to explore these links further after previous studies produced inconclusive results.

The study involved an analysis of data from around 620,000 women and proposed early monitoring and lifestyle changes as a way to mitigate these risks.

Key Findings

Women with a history of infertility had a 14% higher risk of non-fatal stroke compared to those without infertility.

A history of miscarriage was associated with an 11% higher risk of non-fatal stroke, and this risk grew with the number of miscarriages. Three or more miscarriages led to a 35% increase in stroke risk.

Stillbirth was linked to an over 30% higher risk of non-fatal stroke, with multiple stillbirths (two or more) leading to an almost 80% higher likelihood of experiencing a non-fatal ischemic stroke.

Explanatory Mechanisms

The researchers speculate that the higher risk of stroke may be tied to conditions such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI).

However, they also point out that unhealthy lifestyles like smoking and obesity could be contributing factors.

The findings add new depth to the understanding of stroke risks specific to women.

Stroke is one of the leading causes of death and disability in women worldwide, and the study suggests that history of infertility and pregnancy loss could be female-specific risk factors.


Early monitoring and lifestyle changes could play a critical role in lowering stroke risk in women with histories of infertility or pregnancy loss.

The researchers recommend that these women should be considered a special risk group who require particular attention.

Though comprehensive, the study is observational and therefore cannot establish causality.

There were also limitations regarding the collection of data from self-reported questionnaires and different definitions of infertility, miscarriage, and stillbirth across studies.

Final Thoughts

Given that stroke is a significant health concern for women, understanding these potential risk factors could be crucial for preventative healthcare.

The study strongly suggests that clinicians should consider a history of infertility or pregnancy loss as an important component in assessing a woman’s risk for stroke in later life.

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