Being a mum ‘speeds up the ageing process’: Scientists find mothers are up to 3 MONTHS older biologically

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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Being a mum comes with all manner of stresses and strains.

But a study suggests that having children doesn’t just make women feel older, it can increase their biological age.

Researchers have discovered that each pregnancy adds two to three months to a young woman’s physical ageing process.

Pregnancy appears to have no effect on the biological age of men, however.

Researchers have discovered that each pregnancy adds two to three months to a young woman’s physical ageing process but has no effect on men. Stock

Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health researchers worked out the biological age of 1,735 young people in the Philippines by studying their ‘epigenetic clocks’.

This technique involves calculating the ageing of blood and other tissues by tracking changes in DNA.

Experts compare it to like looking for barnacles which have attached themselves to a hull of a ship to slow it down. 

Analysis revealed each additional pregnancy during early adulthood sped up the ageing process by several months.

However there was no difference seen in men whose partner had been pregnant – suggesting that there is something about pregnancy or breastfeeding specifically that accelerates the biological ageing process.

Lead author Dr Calen Ryan said: ‘Epigenetic clocks have revolutionised how we study biological ageing across the lifesource and open up new opportunities to study how and when long-term health costs of reproduction and other life events take hold.

‘Our findings suggest pregnancy speeds up biological ageing, and that these effects are apparent in young, high-fertility women.

‘Our results are also the first to follow the same women through time, linking changes in each woman’s pregnancy number to changes in her biological age.’

The results of the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal, only apply to young women who are in late adolescence.

This time period usually refers to the ages between 18 and 24.

‘Many of the reported pregnancies in our baseline measure occurred during late adolescence, when women are still growing,’ Dr Ryan said.

‘We still have a lot to learn about the role of pregnancy and other aspects of reproduction in the ageing process.

‘We also do now know the extent to which accelerated epigenetic ageing in these particular individuals will manifest as poor health or mortality decades later in life.’

He added: ‘Ultimately I think our findings highlight the potential long-term impacts of pregnancy on women’s health, and the importance of taking care of new parents, especially young mothers.’

Recent research, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, also found that pregnancy advances a woman’s biological age.

However the findings also indicated that giving birth turned it back – with chemical markers on DNA reverting to an earlier state once the baby was born.

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