Having children does a lot to the body, but scientists now believe that having kids could actually age a woman by an amazing 11 years!
Scientists at George Mason University in Virginia in the US researched how motherhood impacts a woman at a cellular level, by examining telomeres.
Telomere are essential parts of human cells that affect how our cells age. They are the caps at the end of each strand of DNA that protect the chromosomes , similar to plastic tips at the end of shoelaces.
Because of the way DNA is replicated, as people age their telomeres shorten and get worn down over time. And according to the study, which was published this month in Human Reproduction journal, the telomeres of women who have had children are the same length of those of women that are 11 years older and childless.
Lots of things can affect a person’s telomeres, including smoking, being overweight and suffering from stress. The scientists analysed data from around 2,000 women aged 20 to 44, and found the shortening of telomeres in mothers was greater than the shortening caused by smoking or being overweight.
Anna Pollack, who worked on the study, told Newsweek the researchers were surprised to find such a striking result.
“We found that women who had five or more children had even shorter telomeres compared to those who had none, and relatively shorter relative to those who had one, two, three, or four,” she said.
The findings showed women in the study lost about 10 base pairs of DNA a year, but women with children had 116 pairs less than those the same age who didn’t have children.
Pollack added that having kids is also associated with a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes. “And some large studies have likened telomere length to mortality risk and risks of other major diseases,” she said.
But, the findings don’t mean mothers are likely to die 11 years earlier than childless women, she said, explaining that the study should not be seen as sign for women to stop having children.
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