Aug. 19 (UPI) — Women who give birth to preterm babies have a higher risk for developing health problems — and dying from them — about a decade after delivery, a study published Wednesday by BMJ found.
Compared to women who had 37-week pregnancies, mothers who had “extremely preterm” deliveries — 22 to 27 weeks of pregnancy — were just over twice as likely to die from any cause within the next 10 years after giving birth, the data showed.
Those who gave birth after 27 weeks and up to 36 weeks of pregnancy were 70% more likely to die from any cause within the next 10 years, the researchers found.
Full-term pregnancies last 39 weeks, with 37-week pregnancies being considered early term.
The findings were not explained by shared genetic or early life environmental factors in families, suggesting that women who deliver prematurely “need long-term clinical follow-up for detection and treatment of chronic disorders associated with early mortality,” the researchers wrote.
Roughly 10% of all deliveries in the United States are preterm, or occur before 37 weeks of pregnancy, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For the study, researchers led by Dr. Casey Crump at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York analyzed data on length of pregnancy for more than 2 million women who gave birth in Sweden between 1973 and 2015.
Deaths in these women were identified using the Swedish Death Register, the researchers said.
Just over 76,500 — or 3.5% — of the 2 million women in the analysis died during the 44-year study period at an average age of 58 — earlier than average life expectancy for women in Sweden, which is roughly 84 — the data showed.
The estimated 2,654 excess deaths — the number above what is expected for the general population — in these women were associated with preterm delivery, with one excess death for every 73 women who delivered preterm, the researchers said.
Risk for death was highest in the first 10 years after delivery and then declined. For example, there was a 1.5-fold increased risk 10 to 19 years after delivery and a 1.4-fold increased risk 20 to 44 years after delivery, the researchers said.
Several specific causes of death among mothers associated with preterm delivery were identified, including heart and lung disorders, diabetes and cancer, they said.