New research has provided women who are having children in their 30s with one more reason why conceiving later in life isn’t so bad.
A well-established career, financial security and enhanced life experience are just some of the reasons women commonly give for having children later in life — and science has revealed another novel benefit to add to the list: living longer.
Mums who gave birth to their youngest cherub after age 33 were twice as likely to celebrate their 95th birthday when compared with younger 20-something mothers who stopped reproducing by age 29, according to researchers from Boston University Medical Center.
Taking data from a study called the Long Life Family Study (LLFS), which is a study of 551 families with many members living to exceptionally-old ages, scientists looked at how old 462 women were when they gave birth for the last time — and then determined how long those women lived for.
The results, published in the journal, Menopause: The Journal of the North American Menopause Society, are also an indication that women may be the driving force behind the evolution of genetic variants that slow ageing and decrease risk for age-related genes.
Benefits of conceiving later
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the average age of women who gave birth in Australia has increased by 7.5 per cent since 1991. Australian Bureau of Statistics data from 2012 showed that the average age of a first-time mother was 29.
More Australian women are giving birth to first, second and third children in their 30s, the reasons for which tend to include:
- Being financially stable, with more savings in the bank
- Waiting until they have established their careers
- Having greater self-confidence, developed through more life experience
- Having a secure and positive marriage
- Being in a “happy medium” between their 20s and their 40s
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The Boston University research isn’t the first study to suggest a relationship between giving birth later in life and living longer. Previous research suggested that women who gave birth after 40 were four times more likely to live to 100 than women who had their last child at a younger age. However, as fertility declines with age, it is more difficult to get pregnant in your mid-late 30s compared with your early 20s.
For this reason, experts tend to encourage women to conceive before their mid-30s, if possible. Corresponding study author, Thomas Perls, stressed that his finding doesn’t mean women should put off having children in order to increase longevity. However, he did indicate that the age at last childbirth can be a rate of ageing indicator.
“The natural ability to have a child at an older age likely indicates that a woman’s reproductive system is ageing slowly, and therefore so is the rest of her body,” he said.