Having a baby later in life could help you live longer, study finds

Image: Getty
Image: Getty  

Women who give birth later in life may end up living longer and having greater long term health, a new study suggests.

Published in the Menopause journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS), the study looked for correlations between having a child later in life and having markers for living longer.

Researchers examined the age of more than 1,200 perimenopausal and postmenopausal women at the time of their last birth and how this impacted on their leukocyte telomere length - DNA protein complexes that protect the end of chromosomes. 

Women who had their last baby at an older age were found to have longer telomeres, indicating they would likely live longer and enjoy greater long term health. 

While its not the first study to examine the correlation, it was on a larger scale and builds on previous research linking shorter telomere length to chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, some cancers and cardiovascular disease.

A study by the Women's Health Initiative published in 2017 also found that women who had their first baby aged over 25 had a higher chance of living until to 90. 

However, NAMS medical director Dr. Stephanie Faubion said in a statement on the findings that further research would need to be done to confirm the link. 

"More research is needed to determine whether older maternal age at last birth causes telomeres to lengthen or whether telomere length serves as a proxy for general health and corresponds with a woman's ability to have a child at a later age."

The study also found more women were having babies later, stating the number of women giving birth aged over 35 in the US had increased by 23 per cent between 2000-2014. 

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Having a baby later in life has also been found to boost a woman's memory. A study in the American Geriatrics Society found that women who had a child after 35 had a greater verbal memory retention in older age.

In Australia, the median age of women having their first baby is 31.4 years. The majority of births are to women aged 30-34 (36 per cent), followed by 25-29 year olds (26 per cent). Those aged 35-39 make up 20 per cent of births and those aged over 40 just four per cent. 

However as Reese Witherspoon recently shared in a candid interview on The Drew Barrymore Show, having a later pregnancy does come with its challenges, saying it was harder with her third baby aged 37 than having her first two in her twenties. 

"I find that having little kids is more physical and it's just really hard on your body. I had one at 23, one at 27 and then again at 37. And oh, my God, having a baby at 37 was so much harder. This is just me being real," US Weekly quoted the actor