Good news for older mums - your memory will thank you one day

Having a baby after 35 might benefit your memory later in life.
Having a baby after 35 might benefit your memory later in life. Photo: Getty Images

Nobody likes to be called geriatric, especially when they are in their mid-30s. 

But after falling pregnant for the first time at what I thought was the fairly acceptable age of 34, I learnt the fact I would be giving birth after my 35th birthday meant that in medical terms I was officially a 'geriatric first time mother'.

Now research has revealed there is reason to celebrate, rather than commiserate, the 'advanced maternal age' at which I had my two children: US researchers have found that pregnancy after the age of 35 is linked to better verbal memory and cognitive function in later life.

The American Geriatrics Society study of 830 post-menopausal women found those who had their last baby after 35 performed better at verbal memory tests than those who had their last baby at a younger age. 

The reason behind the findings is thought to be the surge of pregnancy hormones which previous research has found affects a woman's brain function and chemistry. While some experts believe the benefits of the pregnancy hormonal surge are lifelong, other theories suggest that the more recently a woman experienced the hormonal surge, the more beneficial it will be for cognitive function later in life.

"While it is not enough to suggest that women wait until after 35 years of age to close their family growth, our finding of a positive effect of later age at last pregnancy on late-life cognition is novel and substantial," Dr Roksana Karim, lead author of the study, said.

"More research is warranted to evaluate the underlying mechanism of this phenomenon and also to understand the role of age at first pregnancy in this phenomenon."

The study also found that the use of hormonal contraceptives was also associated with better cognitive function in later life, particularly if the contraception had been used for 10 years or more.

So mums-to-be who have reached the dreaded 'advanced maternal age' of 35 or older, wear that geriatric badge with pride.

While the inevitable baby brain and sleep deprivation that comes with new motherhood might make you feel like pregnancy made you lose your mind, rest easy in the knowledge the opposite is true.