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How does a birth affect the life expectancy of the mother?
When women have children, it seems that the DNA ages more than the effects of smoking or obesity. Researchers have now found that giving birth reduces women's telomeres by around 4.2 percent. Longer telomeres are associated with slower aging, longer life, and improved overall health.
Scientists at George Mason University, Virginia found that childbirth had a major impact on life expectancy and aging of the mother. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Human Reproduction".
Effects of childbirth on the mother
Birth shortens women's telomeres by about 4.2 percent, which causes women's DNA to age by about eleven years. Longer telomeres are associated with slower aging, longer lifespans and improved general health, the authors explain. Compared to the results of previous studies, it was found that the extent of telomere shortening through childbirth is greater than the effects of smoking or obesity.
Is stress the cause of cell aging?
It was surprising to get such a striking result, says study author Dr. Anna Pollack from George Mason University. The observed effects correspond to approximately eleven years of accelerated cell aging. The researchers believe that this is due to the stress of raising children, especially in countries without mandatory maternity leave, such as the United States.
The data from 1,505 women were evaluated for the study
For their study, the scientists analyzed the data from a total of 1,505 women aged 20 to 44 years. These women had participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 1999 and 2002. This survey was chosen because the telomere length of the participants was also measured using blood samples. The number of births during the study was determined using a questionnaire, the doctors explain.
Are births shortening the length of the telomere?
In the study, the researchers found that after taking factors such as age, education, ethnicity, smoking etc. into account, the women with a child had 4.2 percent shorter telomeres than the women who had not yet given birth. When women had five or more children, their telomeres were even shorter compared to women without children or with only one, two, three or four children, the scientists explain.
Further research is needed
The results contradict a study that was carried out some time ago on Malaysian women. At the time, this had shown that the birth of several children lengthened the telomeres. According to the researchers in the recent study, this could be due to the fact that the participants in the previous study received greater social support. Further research is needed to better understand the relationship between motherhood and genetic aging, explains Dr. Pollack.
Sexual activity can protect against aging
Other research earlier last year showed that sexual intercourse once a week seems to slow down the aging of women. Regular sexual activity prolongs the telomeres of women regardless of whether the women were satisfied with their sexual relationship or not. This could be due to the fact that stress is dampened and the immune system strengthened, the experts suspect. (as)