A new study in the journal Menopause finds a link between women giving birth later in life and living longer. Yes! After years of hearing nothing but negative associations about older moms and health, there may be good news for women who conceive in their 30s and 40s.
According to Boston.com, researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine found that women who naturally conceived their last child after age 33 were twice as likely to live to the age of 95 than women whose last child was born by age 29.
But before you go delaying conception, bear in mind that the 462 women who participated in the study were part of The Long Life Family Study and have a family history of exceptional longevity. In other words, they may have already been predisposed to live longer lives. So just because you have a child later in life, does not mean you will live longer.
Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and director of The Longevity Genes Project, says the challenge is understanding the association found in the study.
"Is it that if you have children later in life you live longer, or is it that if you have longevity genes that allow you to live longer, you had a harder time getting pregnant, earlier? We don't know," he says.
"We do know that with increased maternal age, there is an increase in the risk of genetic conditions such as Down syndrome, and that infertility increases with age," says Siobhan Dolan, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and women's health at the Einstein school.
Dolan cautions against using this study as an excuse to wait until later in life to try to get pregnant. Instead, she advises women to look at this data as a piece of the puzzle.
"Women need a sense of risk and benefits. Think of it as a reproductive health plan, which will maximize your chances to have a healthy pregnancy when you desire," she says.
Dolan hopes wanting a healthy baby and the desire to live longer will help women focus on the controllable aspects of their health in preparing for pregnancy. For instance, stopping smoking and achieving an ideal weight.
"It is worth it to make these changes," she says.