It doesn’t take a scientific genius to tell you that motherhood is a challenging and nerve-racking experience. But there wasn’t anything yet which compared women peers based on their having had children or not.
According to this research, women who have children, at least at a cellular level age faster than their peers who didn’t have any children. The amount of cellular aging is as high as 11 years for women who have had children. However, scientists have not yet come to a concrete solution as to why there is such a vast difference in cellular aging between women of the same age, based only on their maternity status.
The technical discovery on which the study is able to predict these numbers involves a compound structure found in our DNA. It goes by the name of telomeres which are at the end of every DNA structure. Their main function is to prevent and protect the DNA from degenerating. Telomeres can also be used to judge the age of the cells depending on their size.
Every time a cell splits and regenerates, its telomere structure gets shorter as well. And thus they are an effective way of telling the age of a cell. There have been enough previous studies which have shown the interrelationship between shorter telomeres and age-related health issues, higher mortality and even the more physically obvious signs of aging, such as gray hair.
Scientists conducted the study at the George Mason University of Virginia. They collected record samples from more than 2000 American women, in the age range of 20 and 44. In the course of the study, it was found that out of these women, those who’ve have carried a pregnancy to term and had one or more children, had 4.2 times shorter telomeres as compared to women who never had any children. This finding stood true accounting for all external variables such as age difference, weight, socioeconomic status, and careers. This 4.2 times difference in the telomere size is the equivalent of 11 years of aging.
Study on Mayan women
However, in a similar study of Mayan women, researchers found that the ones who have had children had comparatively longer telomeres than those who haven’t. This is the reason why the scientists involved are not able to find the cause of this aging. One speculation is that this is related to the stress of childbearing and upbringing. Whichever be the case, the study is definitely not proof enough that anyone needs to swear off having children anytime soon.