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Last Updated:  Sunday, 23 February, 2003, 00:29 GMT
Miscarriage link to heart risk
Heart monitor
The researchers looked at heart disease
A study has shown some women who suffer early miscarriages are at an increased risk of developing heart disease later in life.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge analysed data on births in Scotland from 1981 to 1985 and deaths or hospital admissions from heart disease between 1981 and 1999.

Women with a history of spontaneous loss of early pregnancy were at increased risk of heart disease, but those who had had abortions were not.

Miscarriage is very common, affecting 15% of all pregnancies.

The sad thing would be if this was to scare people
Professor William Ledger, University of Sheffield
But experts say not all those will be at risk.

For instance, there is a small group of women who have clotting problems which can cause miscarriages and later heart problems.

They will be told the condition, thrombophilia, has caused their miscarriage, they said.

'Relatively small risk'

The researchers, writing in the British Medical Journal, said they believed this was the first study to show a specific link between spontaneous abortion and maternal risk of heart disease.

But they added: "Further studies are required to corroborate these findings and confirm that the association is independent of smoking and other factors, such as maternal disease, for example, diabetes and polycystic ovarian syndrome.

Professor Gordon Smith of the Rosie Hospital in Cambridge, who led the research, told BBC News Online: "Thrombophilia defects were certainly one of the things that we considered.

"But we did also see an association with miscarriage prior to the first pregnancy."

Professor Smith said women in his study who had experienced a single miscarriage had a 50% increased risk of heart disease, compared to not having had one at all.

But he added: "A 50% increase, in terms of absolute risk, is relatively small."

He added: "There are a number of factors that have been shown to be associated with variations in risk for developing heart disease. This is just another one."


But Professor William Ledger, an obstetrician and gynaecologist at the University of Sheffield, told BBC News Online women who had suffered miscarriages should not worry.

"The sad thing would be if this was to scare people."

Professor Ledger, a spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: "We know that some groups of women who miscarry do have thrombophilia syndromes and also later cardiovascular disease.

"But most women who have miscarriages do not have thrombophilia."

"And if they do, the increased risk of heart disease is very small. If you compare it to smoking 10 cigarettes a day for 10 years, that's a five-fold higher risk than having this."

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