Pregnancy and childrearing can impact women’s health and alter chronic disease trajectories in later life, including cardiovascular disease. The purpose of this study was to assess measures of women’s cardiovascular health by time since last live birth.
Data were from 4,021 nonpregnant U.S. women, 20-44 years of age, participating in the 2007-2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Cardiovascular health was assessed using physical measures, laboratory measures, self-reported behaviors, medical conditions, and selected psychosocial factors by time since last live birth.
Women reported their last live birth within the past 12 months (“mothers of infants”; 7.4%), >12 months, but <3 years ago (“mothers of toddlers”; 10.0%), or ≥3 years ago (“mothers of older children”; 45.2%); 37.3% were nulliparous. Compared with nulliparous women, mothers of older children had a higher prevalence of selected cardiovascular risk factors, including unhealthy diet (75.6% vs. 68.8%) and smoking (28.1% vs. 21.9%), after adjustment for sociodemographics (including age). Mothers of toddlers had a higher prevalence of unhealthy diet (78.0% vs. 68.8%). Mothers also had poorer metabolic health as indicated by a higher prevalence of low HDL cholesterol among mothers of toddlers and older children (44.2% and 40.4%, respectively, vs. 33.6%), and a higher prevalence of high waist circumference among mothers of infants (65.6% vs. 53.8%). Some mothers also had a higher prevalence of other cardiovascular risk factors, including low physical activity and poor sleep.
Prior pregnancy and childrearing may be associated with selected cardiovascular risk factors among nonpregnant reproductive-aged U.S. women.