Women who give birth to multiple children and have their first baby at a young age may up their chances of developing open-angle glaucoma (OAG), according to a Journal of Glaucoma study.  

Korean researchers found females who had a history of three or more deliveries and gave birth to their first baby at age 23 or younger had an increased risk of OAG.

The team enrolled 1,798 postmenopausal participants based on data from the Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2010-2011. Investigators collected information on demographics, comorbidities and health-related behaviors, and performed comprehensive ophthalmic examinations. Researchers then used multivariate regression analysis to assess the correlation between pregnancy and delivery and the prevalence of OAG, the latter, which they found among study participants was 6.4%.

 “There was a significant difference in the number of deliveries and age at first delivery between the OAG group and the non-glaucoma group,” they wrote in their paper.

Women who had two pregnancies showed the lowest prevalence of OAG. As such, women with a single pregnancy were at a higher risk of OAG than the females who had two children. “However, in terms of the age at first delivery, those younger than 24 years at first delivery showed a higher risk of OAG. Our findings suggest that number of deliveries is independently associated with OAG. It is thought that a hormone effect is involved in these findings,” the researchers noted.

Females who had three or four deliveries were at higher risk of OAG compared with those who had two deliveries. Additionally, women who gave birth at ages 16-20 or 21-23 were associated with an increased OAG risk.

Our findings suggest that hormonal changes or certain events during the course of pregnancy and delivery play a role in the pathogenesis of glaucoma. Further studies should be performed to determine the exact underlying mechanisms,” the study authors concluded.

Lee JY, Kim JM, Kim SH, et al. Associations among pregnancy, parturition, and open-angle glaucoma: Korea national health and nutrition examination survey 2010-2011. J Glaucoma. October 8, 2018. [E-pub, ahead of print].