March 22, 2017

Nulliparity Health Risks

Pondering nulliparity health risks.

Pondering nulliparity health risks.

Almost nine months ago I attempted to define nulliparity in the context of childfree couples, (“Nulliparity Definition“), and I asked readers to consider stretching the definition at least, at least rhetorically, to include both males and females in nulliparous relationships.

Derived from Latin… a usable nulliparity definition would be the condition of not bearing offspring (normally applied to a human woman). (Nulliparity Definition – Why No Kids?)

A medical term used to refer to a condition or state in which a woman has never given birth to a child, or has never carried a pregnancy. (biology online)

At the time, my endeavor was mostly academic. Educate myself. Educate Why No Kids? readers. Move on. Instead, I’ve stumbled upon worrisome nulliparity health risks.

Is Nulliparity Bad?

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’m drawn to dialogue inspired by (and surrounding) childfree by choice couples. I’m not a strident advocate for childfreedom, nor am I categorically opposed to bearing children. In fact, at times, my conviction is admittedly blurry, but I am always intrigued by the conversations and debate provoked by the parent/childfree divide. It’s a healthy and often entertaining topic, and — though I’m still not prepared to hypothesize exactly why — it’s a debate that provokes ample emotional and intellectual opinioneering.

That said, I’ve never given much credence to claims that choosing not to bear children is ethically wrong, biologically bad or — this is real, folks — a religious sin. Such binary reasoning strikes me as naive, not infrequently hateful and always intolerant. My world is not painted in primary colors, and it’s certainly not black and white. I believe that the parent/childfree divide hinges upon subjective opinions and preferences.

Nulliparity Concerns

But my previous nulliparity post has catalyzed some new questions and concerns for me including the potential for some troubling nulliparity health risks. Ever since publishing the post, we’ve experienced a dramatic uptick in traffic from visitors looking for information about nulliparity. Sure, that’s logical enough. But I was surprised and I remain surprised at the volume of people trying to learn more about nulliparity. Certainly they’re not all “childfree curious”…

Google Insights shows that the trend is global, and that it’s been about seven years since people began looking for more information about nulliparity. A little data mining reveals these top three search queries:

  1. nulliparity definition
  2. nulliparity define
  3. nulliparity breast cancer

The first two are effectively the same search for a definition of the term nulliparity, and their popularity explains the popularity of my first attempt to define nulliparity. But the third most popular search offers a hint at why there’s been growing interest in nulliparity globally. Fear.

Nulliparity Fears

Is nulliparity dangerous? Are there conclusive indications of nulliparity health risks? A quick glimpse at some recent articles suggest that nulliparity may indeed be dangerous.

Changes in decade of first birth and nulliparity do not explain the changes in breast cancer incidence… [but] breast cancer incidence has increased in the same cohorts. (National Institute of Health, NCBI)

A higher incidence of SPM [second primary malignancy] of the breast is observed in women treated for papillary thyroid cancer. Additionally, this risk is increased by nulliparity… (WJSO)

Catholic nuns… pay a terrible price for their chastity because they have a greatly increased risk of breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers: the hazards of their nulliparity. (The Lancet)

Nulliparous women had a 44% increased risk of hip fractures independent of hip bone mineral density… childbearing reduces hip fracture risk by means that may be independent of hip bone mineral density. (National Institute of Health, NCBI)

Incidentally, this eerie, late night film plot resurfaces in “Why nuns might be stoking cancer in quest to stay chaste“. Spooky, right? Looks like more research is in order.

Nulliparity’s Silver Lining

Fortunately not all nulliparity news is bad news.

In a linear regression model… it was found that nulliparous women and women who went through menopause later in life had significantly less cognitive decline. (National Institute of Health, NCBI)

So where does this leave us? It’s clear that many people all around the world are concerned about a possibly causal relationship between nulliparity and breast cancer and about nulliparity health risks in general. But from my standpoint, not much else is clear.

Does Nulliparity Increase Health Risks?

I’m hoping that one of our readers will know more about this and share their insights. Does (or should) the definition of nulliparity include increased health risks?
Are there additional nulliparity health risks that I’ve overlooked?