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Pregnancy History Not Likely Tied to Later Cognitive Function

Authors say childbearing decisions and timing have no long-term impact on cognitive function

FRIDAY, April 5, 2019 (HealthDay News) — There is no clinically meaningful long-term association between pregnancy history and age-related change in cognitive function, according to a study published online March 18 in Menopause.

Sindana D. Ilango, M.P.H., from San Diego State University, and colleagues evaluated the association between pregnancy history and trajectories of cognitive function among 1,025 older women (mean age, 73.1 years) participating in the Rancho Bernardo Study. Cognitive function was assessed with a battery of four tests repeated as many as seven times from baseline in 1988-1992 through 2016.

The researchers found that 77 percent of participating women had at least one pregnancy (range, one to 14 pregnancies; mean, 2.9). Age at first pregnancy ranged from 16 to 44 years (mean = 24.9 years), and age at last pregnancy ranged from 16 to 49 years (mean = 30.7 years). Based on an assessment of 16 associations (four pregnancy exposures by four cognitive tests), only one association was statistically significant without correction for multiple comparisons: Women who reported ever being pregnant recalled 0.12 fewer words on the Buschke Selective Reminding Test for every year increase in age compared with women who had never been pregnant (P = 0.05). There were no other significant associations between pregnancy history and cognitive decline.

“Our results show no clinically meaningful long-term influence of pregnancy history on age-related change in cognitive function,” the authors write. “These reassuring findings suggest childbearing decisions and timing will not affect cognitive function in older age.”

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