Does Giving Birth 'Age' Women?
A new study shows that women who have given birth may be biologically "older" than women who haven't had a child. For the study, researchers analyzed blood samples from 1,556 women between the ages of 20 and 44 in the U.S. who participated in a national survey from 1999 to 2002.
They looked at markers of biological age called telomeres. Telomeres are caps on the ends of chromosomes that protect DNA from damage. As cells age, telomeres shorten—a process that occurs at different rates in different people. By examining these markers, the researchers were able to determine the "biological age" of the women's cells.
In participants who had given birth to at least one child, telomeres were about 4 percent shorter on average than those who had never given birth, even after adjusting for other factors. More research is needed, but one theory is that stress related to giving birth and raising a child can lead to chronic inflammation that shortens telomeres and speeds up biological aging.
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