The association of reproductive history with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in older women: the Rancho Bernardo Study

Fertil Steril. 2012 Jan;97(1):118-24. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2011.10.028. Epub 2011 Nov 28.


Objective: To examine associations of gravidity and parity with all-cause, cardiovascular disease (CVD), and coronary heart disease (CHD) mortality in postmenopausal women.

Design: Prospective cohort study.

Setting: Rancho Bernardo, a southern California community.

Patient(s): One thousand two hundred ninety-four postmenopausal women ages 50-96 who attended a 1984-87 research clinic visit at which reproductive and medical histories were obtained and who were followed through 2007.

Intervention(s): None.

Main outcome measure(s): All-cause, CVD, CHD, and non-CHD CVD mortality, determined by nosologist-coded death certificates.

Result(s): Average baseline age was 70.6 ± 9.2. Numbers of pregnancies ranged from 0 to 13 (median = 2); births ranged from 0 to 11 (median = 2). During a median of 19.3 years of follow-up, 707 women (54.6%) died, with 46.5% attributed to CVD, 20.5% to CHD, and 26.0% to non-CHD CVD. Trend analyses showed inverse associations of gravidity with CVD mortality and non-CHD CVD mortality. Women with four or more pregnancies were less likely than nulligravidas to have fatal CVD (hazard ratio [HR] = 0.63, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.40-0.99) and non-CHD CVD (HR = 0.48, 95% CI = 0.26-0.91) independent of age, years postmenopause, obesity, and HDL. Associations increased after the first decade of follow-up. Parity and gravidity were not associated with overall or CHD mortality.

Conclusion(s): High gravidity was associated with reduced CVD and non-CHD CVD mortality in postmenopausal women. Protective associations could reflect biological mechanisms that occur with repeated pregnancy or greater social support related to family size among multiparous women.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging*
  • California / epidemiology
  • Coronary Disease / mortality*
  • Death Certificates
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Parity*
  • Postmenopause*
  • Pregnancy
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reproduction*
  • Risk Factors