Mature mums live longer: Women who give birth to their last child in their 30s or 40s have longer, healthier lives, study claims
- Researchers studied around 1,200 women either in or undergoing menopause
- Found women who has their last child later in life also had longer telomeres
- These structures on chromosomes protect genetic material from damage
Being an older mum could add years to your life, according to new research.
Women who give birth to their last child well into their 30s or 40s have been found to live longer than younger mums.
It is thought to be due to telomeres – structures that act as protective caps on the end of chromosomes.
These features have long been linked to longevity and health, with short telomeres often found in people prone to disease.
Women who give birth to their last child well into their 30s or 40s have been found to live longer than younger mums. It is thought to be due to telomeres, structures that act as protective caps on the end of chromosomes (stock)
Researchers looked at more than 1,200 women who were either post-menopausal or undergoing the process from various backgrounds and socio-economic statuses.
A previous small-scale study found longer telomeres in older mums, but this was observational and had significant limitations.
For example, it was unable to rule out that mothers who have children later in life have longer telomeres because they are more wealthy.
Many well-off women delay starting a family to pursue a career, whereas less affluent people tend to get pregnant earlier in life.
A rich career-driven woman who has kids when she is older is likely to have longer telomeres due to a variety of factors, including access to high-quality healthcare, a better diet and jobs which are not physically taxing.
To ensure these confounding factors did not influence the findings, the researchers accounted for socio-economic status in their study.
Lead author Chase Latour, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina, said: ‘Women who delivered their last child later in life were likely to have longer telomeres, a biomarker of long-term health and longevity.’
Blood tests showed that women who had their last child in their teens or 20s had shorter telomeres than those who started a family or added to it later on (stock)
Anxious mums can pass on their stress to their babies
Babies can be scarred for life by receiving an ’emotional imprint’ of stress passed from anxious or depressed mothers, a study has found.
Using a standardised stress test, researchers from Germany found that the young children of stressed mums show significantly increased heart rate when upset.
Mother–infant interactions play a significant role in a child’s development — with anxious or depressed mothers less able to regulate an infant’s negative moods.
According to experts, 10–20 per cent of women experience such mood disorders as mild depression, irritability and changing moods during and after pregnancy.
Blood tests showed those who had their last child in their teens or 20s had shorter telomeres than those who started a family or added to it later on.
The researchers focused on leukocytes, a type of white blood cell that plays a key role in fighting infection and disease.
Ms Latour said: ‘These findings, in combination with results from a previous observational study, suggest maternal age and other key reproductive factors is correlated with telomere length among menopausal women.
‘This could have implications for our understanding of long-term health in this population.’
Researchers say it is possible giving birth later in life does affect telomere length, and therefore increases lifespan, but this is thought to be unlikely.
Instead, the ability to give birth later in life is likely an indicator of being in good health and therefore the causation is the other way round.
Instead of pregnancy age affecting telomere length, telomere length allows for a midlife pregnancy.
‘More research is needed to determine whether older maternal age at last birth causes telomeres to lengthen or whether telomere length serves as a proxy for general health and corresponds with a woman’s ability to have a child at a later age,’ says Dr. Stephanie Faubion, medical director at The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).
Ms Latour adds: ‘Individuals with better survival traits are more likely to have higher reproductive success.
‘Specifically, this suggests we see this trend because those with longer telomeres can give birth at later ages.
‘This could occur, for example, if telomere length itself dictates the age at which a woman can have a child.’
The research is published in Menopause.