My sister is three years older than me but looks at least ten years younger. So what’s her secret? Well, she doesn’t have kids!
A new study has confirmed what mums have suspected for years. Women who have children may age at a more rapid speed than women with no biological kids.
The results, published in the medical journal Human Reproduction indicate that having a child could age women up to 11 years.
During the study, researchers examined the chromosomes in blood samples of almost 2,000 American women aged between 20 and 44. They were particularly interested in a compound structure called telomeres, which sit at the end of a chromosome to protect DNA from degeneration. Every time a cell regenerates, the telomeres get a little shorter – in this way, they are the cell’s aging clock.
Having shorter telomeres has been linked to a variety of health conditions as well as physical signs of aging like graying hair.
The scientists discovered that those women with kids had telomeres that were 4.2 percent shorter on average than those without.
11 Years Older
“It is equivalent to around 11 years of accelerated cellular aging,” Anna Pollack, lead author of the paper, told New Scientist.
And it is a more substantial change than you see in studies related to smoking and obesity, she added.
The consequence of this accelerated aging that could be caused by having children could include prematurely gray hair, as well as more serious side-effects such as increasing mortality rates and the early onset of age-related health conditions.
The study does not make it clear why the telomeres become shorter following childbirth, so more research may need to be undertaken.
Interestingly, this study has nothing to do with raising children so women who adopt or foster children are not, in theory, affected by these findings. This study is only concerned with the aging of women who are biological mothers.
Don’t Stop Having Kids
But the authors of this study warned against taking the results too serious.
Ms Pollack says that this should not encourage women to stop having children.
She also indicated that other factors that were not looked into in this particular study could also play a part. Because the study was conducted in the US with participants who had had live births in the US, the lack of mandatory maternity leave could be a factor. It is important to note here that the US is the only country in the developed world that does not have mandatory maternity (or paternity) leave for new parents.
Pollack admitted that this could be a factor that generates stress in mothers, which may play a part in cellular aging, too.
At least, now we start getting those gray hairs, we can confidently blame our kids for causing them.
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