Having children ages women’s genetic material by 11 years
Giving birth shortens women’s telomeres by around 4.2 per cent, a study found.
Telomeres ‘cap’ the end of DNA strands, with longer lengths being associated with slower aging, longer lifespans and improved overall health.
The findings were published in the journal Human Reproduction.
Such an extent of telomere shortening is greater than the effects of smoking or obesity demonstrated in previous studies.
Study author Dr. Anna Pollack from George Mason University, Virginia, United States (U.S.), said: “We were surprised to find such a striking result. It is equivalent to around 11 years of accelerated cellular ageing.”
Researchers believe this may be due to the stress of raising children, particularly in countries without mandatory maternity leave, such as the US.
They stress, however, more research into the link between motherhood and genetic ageing is required, with Dr. Pollack adding: “We’re not saying “don’t have children.”
The researchers from George Mason University, Virginia, analysed 1,505 women aged between 20 and 44 who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 1999 and 2002.
Of which, 444 had never given birth.
This survey was chosen because it measured its participants’ telomere lengths via blood samples.
The study’s participants’ live birth histories were determined via a questionnaire.
The results contradict a study carried out in Malaysian women, which suggested having more children lengthens telomeres.
According to the more recent investigation’s researchers, this may be due to the participants in the former study receiving greater social support.
This comes after research released in July last year suggests having sex at least once a week slows aging in women, even if they do not enjoy being intimate.
Being active between the sheets increases the length of women’s telomeres, a study found.
Women’s telomeres lengthen with regular love making regardless of whether they are sexually satisfied in their relationship, the research adds.
Researchers from the University of California in San Francisco believe sex may aid aging in women by dampening stress and boosting their immune systems.
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