Objectives: This paper describes the relationship between self-reported general health status and several facets of reproductive history.
Methods: We analyzed survey data on a national probability sample of 1341 women aged 50 and older from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. We used multivariate regression techniques to control for differences in health indices that assessed health status and functioning.
Results: Women with a history of six or more completed pregnancies were found to be disadvantaged in educational attainment, financial resources, and health status compared with women with no or fewer pregnancies. When current sociodemographic factors were controlled, six or more pregnancies were associated with worse general health and worse physical role functioning. When sociodemographic factors and number of births were controlled, among women with at least one delivery, women who had experienced an infant's death reported worse health as measured by all three indices. Women with a first delivery before the age of 18 were more likely to report a functional limitation.
Conclusions: Women with high parity status, a history of an infant's death, and an early first pregnancy may be at greater risk of poor health in later life.