Childbirth Ages You More Than Smoking and Obesity, Study Claims

Childbirth Ages You More Than Smoking and Obesity, Study Claims

It’s no secret that becoming a mother can change your whole life, but scientists reveal that it can age you rapidly, as well.

There are many joys of motherhood, but it’s undeniable that giving birth can take a toll on a woman’s body and mind. A team of scientists from George Mason University, Virginia claims that going through labor can age your body significantly- on a cellular level.

The research was focused on telomere length in almost 2,000 women aged 20 to 44. Telomeres are the caps on the ends of the DNA strand, and their length is indicative of your age, at least when your cells are concerned. It is still unclear if shorter telomeres contribute to the aging process or merely show age, but they are connected to the process: short telomeres have been linked to cognitive decline, heart conditions, and physical signs of age. Now, it seems that giving birth should be added to the list of things that accelerate your cellular aging process.

The paper published in Human Reproduction shows that, on average, women who gave birth had 4.2 percent shorter telomeres than their childless peers. Translated to years, it means that their bodies were 11 years older than they should be. For comparison, smoking and obesity would impact your cellular age less than motherhood (4.6 and 8.8 years, respectively). Even when external factors such as weight or socioeconomic elements were removed, the results remained the same.

So, does that mean that becoming a mother will instantly “steal” a decade of your life? Not exactly. While the study was not focused on what exactly causes this, comparing it to other studies might reveal the reasons for the accelerated aging.

When a similar study was done on women from rural Mayan communities, the results were a complete opposite- babies revitalized their bodies on a cellular level. It seems that the real culprit is not childbirth itself, but the stress linked to raising children that women in developed countries experience. The lead author of the study, Anna Pollack, highlighted that one of the factors that could be “aging” American mothers is that the United States are one of the very few countries in the world that don’t have mandatory maternity leave.

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