Large families 'protect' mother's health

Large families 'protect' mother's health

Researchers have carried out the study and found that large families protect mother's health as she is less likely to die of a stroke, despite the stresses involved with raising the children.

The study, involving 1300 women in California, suggested those who had four or more children were one third less likely to due from cardiovascular disease.

The majority of the effect seemed to result from the prevention of stroke, as mothers of large families were almost 50 per cent less likely to die of a stroke, according to the findings published in the 'Fertility and Sterility' journal.

It may be that having higher levels of hormones associated with pregnancy circulating in the body for longer may leave lasting benefits on the body's blood vessels, the researchers suggested.

It could also be that larger families offered greater social support to the mothers, or women that have more children are generally in better health, they said.

Lead author Marni Jacoobs of University of California said: "In conclusion, women in this study had less CVD mortality risk if they had more than four pregnancies, with the strongest association observed for non-CHD CVD mortality.

"The mechanism by which this decreased risk occurs is unknown, however, it may reflect higher fertility in healthier women, the effect of prolonged exposure to higher levels of circulating oestrogen or other hormones during pregnancy, increased endothelial function during pregnancy, or the added social support from a larger family."

Experts are, however, not fully convinced.

Prof Donald Peebles, spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said it was not clear why four or more children had such a protective effect.

"We know that women who want to get pregnant and cannot are at greater risk of cardiovascular disease because of conditions such as polycystic ovaries," 'The Daily Telegraph' quoted him as saying.

Added Amy Thompson, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation: "We know that cardiovascular disease kills as many women as it does men but they're affected in different ways and we do not fully understand why."