Do you remember everything health-related that happened to you during your pregnancies? If you experienced certain disorders while you were carrying your babies, some of those issues may have had longer-term effects than you'd expect. According to new research, some of these effects might even last well into menopause.
The October 2018 study, presented during The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) Annual Meeting in San Diego, examined data from more than 2,200 women. Researchers found that women with a history of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy — a group of diseases that includes pre-eclampsia, eclampsia, gestational hypertension, and chronic hypertension — and gestational diabetes may have a greater burden of hot flashes throughout the menopause transition than women who did not experience those problems.
"This study further underscores the importance of pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia for later health, particularly cardiovascular health at midlife,” said lead author Rhoda Conant, MD, in a press release. “Women with a history of these pregnancy disorders were heavier and more likely to be taking lipid-lowering medications and diabetes medications.”
Of course, it’s worth keeping in mind that about 60 to 80 percent of women experience hot flashes at some point during menopause, so not all these women with hot flashes necessarily had hypertensive disorders of pregnancy or gestational diabetes during their past pregnancies. However, the new research suggests that there is a link between such health issues and a greater number of hot flashes a woman experiences during the change of life.
It’s also worth mentioning that women who had never been pregnant were found to have fewer hot flashes overall. On top of that, the study also suggested the important role that education and other social factors can play in influencing a woman’s pregnancy outcomes — as well as her later experience with hot flashes.
"With so many women affected by hot flashes, healthcare providers need to understand all the underlying risk factors that could influence hot flashes at the time of menopause,” said JoAnn Pinkerton, MD, the executive director of NAMS, in the press release.
It just goes to show that knowledge is power — not only for your brain, but also for your health as you get older. Talk to your doctor if you think you might be experiencing the early signs of menopause or if you're looking for new ways to reduce menopause symptoms.