Having a child late does not only involve risks for the mother-to-be. Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, researchers found that those who became mothers later had better life expectancies than women who had their last child at a younger age.
Scientists have found that leukocyte telomeres, which protect DNA strands, last longer in women who had their last child in their late 30s compared to those in their 20s. Previous studies have suggested that there is a link between telomere longevity and decreased chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
A new, larger study focused on more than 1,200 pre-menopausal and post-menopausal women – from different ethnicities and social backgrounds – was conducted to analyze the effects of the birth of a women’s last child on telomere length. The researchers also took into consideration socio-demographic factors, such as education, religion, marital status and occupation, related to health decisions and the reproductive period.
The study confirmed that women who gave birth to their last child later tended to have longer telomeres. However, positive effects were only seen in women who had one or two children or those who used oral contraception.
Dr Stephanie Faubion, medical director of the North American Menopause Society, said more research needs to be done on the topic.