A new study suggests that mothers who give birth later in life may actually live longer, so long as the pregnancy happened naturally. A Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) study published in Menopause: The Journal of the North American Menopause Society, says women who are able to have children after the age of 33 have a greater chance of living longer than women who had their last child before the age of 30. >Dr. Thomas Perls, of Boston University Medical Center notes that there is a good possible reason for this correlation:
The natural ability to have a child at an older age likely indicates that a woman’s reproductive system is aging slowly, and therefore so is the rest of her body.
In a press release from the University of Boston, the researches note that “the findings also indicate that women may be the driving force behind the evolution of genetic variants that slow aging and decrease risk for age-related genes, which help people live to extreme old age.” To perform the study, researchers looked at 462 women, including 311 women who had lived to exceptionally old ages, and found that women who gave birth to their last child after age 33 were twice as likely to live to at least age 95, compared with women who had their last child by age 29. However, it is not necessarily the act of having a child that leads to the correlation, but rather the ability of the woman to become pregnant naturally at that age.
If a woman has those variants, she is able to reproduce and bear children for a longer period of time, increasing her chances of passing down those genes to the next generation.
In other words, women with these “youth” genes are able to bear children for longer periods of time and then pass those genes on to their children. This isn’t the only study that has confirmed this correlation. The results of the University of Boston study are consistent with other findings on the relationship between maternal age at birth of last child and exceptional longevity. Previously, the NECS found that women who gave birth to a child after the age of 40 were four times more likely to live to 100 than women who had their last child at a younger age.
Unfortunately, a large family seems to downgrade the effects. According to Fox News, the researchers also found that having more than three children tempered the link between increased maternal age and survival to old ages. In other words, having too many children might work against the genetic advantages older moms may have. Sorry Michelle Duggar, looks like you, statistically, won’t get to reap the longevity benefits of having a child past 33.
The LA Times reports that twin studies suggest that genes explain about 20% of an individual’s likelihood of living into his or her 80s, and environmental factors such as nutrition, predators, toxins and protective elders explain the rest. “A long-lived grandma supplies larger broods, good genes and better care. She practically creates the village that ensures her longevity genes will be passed on.”
In summary, the study found that women who had three or less children with the last child being born when the mother was 33 or older have a significantly higher chance of living longer and passing those hearty genes on to their children.