1. Tiedje, Linda Beth

Article Content

Catov, J. M., Newman, A. B., Roberts, J. M., Kelsey, S. F., Sutton-Tyrrell, K., Harris, T. B., et al. (2007). Epidemiology, 18, 733-739.


We are all familiar with studies of infants born prematurely and the long-term health consequences for them, such as learning and physical disabilities. This recent study is unique in its focus on mothers who deliver preterm and the long-term health consequences for these women. Catov and her team investigated a group of 446 older women (mean age, 80 years, 47% black) who had a history of preterm birth (before 37 weeks) and their subsequent cardiovascular disease (CVD) status. Analysis focused on first births not complicated by hypertension or pre-eclampsia. Hospital records and self-report were used as data sources.


Women who delivered a preterm infant (an average of 57 years previously) had a higher prevalence of CVD, a relationship not altered by smoking history, other risk factors, and demographics. The association with CVD was even stronger when women who delivered both preterm and small infants were compared with women who delivered at term and had normal weight infants. Because women who survive to old age (like the women in this study) are obviously healthier than women in general, the generalizability of these findings may be limited. Nonetheless, this study alerts us to the possibility of preterm birth as a marker for women at risk for later CVD and suggests that hidden maternal vascular disease may contribute to preterm delivery. This hidden vascular disease may, over the course of that woman's lifetime, lead to hypertension or arteriosclerosis and increase the risk for CVD. Although more information is needed regarding these CVD pathways, the results imply that delivering a preterm infant may help identify women who would benefit from further CVD risk screening and interventions.


Linda Beth Tiedje