Alzheimer’s and Pregnancy: What’s the Connection?

A group of researchers has recently found a potential connection between pregnancy and Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists have long been investigating social and biological factors to understand why Alzheimer’s and dementia are more prevalent in women than men, and this study provides evidence that women who give birth to more children are at a lower risk.

Using nearly 15,000 women in their study published in Neurology, the team found that those who gave birth to 3 or more children were at a 12% lower risk of cognitive issues than those with only 1 child. They also found that failed pregnancy increased risk of the disease, with 3 or more miscarriages being linked to a 47% greater risk of Alzheimer’s. The findings of this study were presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Chicago this week and was one of multiple studies looking into how hormones, pregnancy, age of menopause, and various other risk factors affect a woman’s risk for Alzheimer’s.

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Of the 5.7 million Americans currently suffering from Alzheimer’s, two-thirds of them are women. Women 60 years or older are at double the risk of contracting breast cancer if they have the disease. Though the disease is so devastating in the female community, experts claim strong focus on why women are so predisposed to the disease has not been present and that pregnancy may be a factor.

The researchers note that this was only an observational study, and that it only provides information on correlation. “It doesn’t tell you the mechanisms, but it’s telling you who is at higher and lower risk,” says Rachel Whitmer, professor of health sciences at the UC Davis School of Medicine. The findings of this study come in heavy contrast to those of a recent study in pregnant South Korean and Greek women, who were shown to express a 70% higher Alzheimer’s risk if they had given birth at least 5 times.

Read about Bill Gates recent investment into Alzheimer’s research here.

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Sources: CNN, NBC