Thursday, November 7, 2019

The Fountain of Youth: Having Babies

My daughter Teresa & grandson Xavier


           Science has identified a way that women can slow aging, have a stronger brain, and live longer. Babies! Having them at all, having more of them, and having them at a later age, are all ways that women benefit physically from becoming a mother. So, change that diaper, wipe that messy face, and smile! 

When I was pregnant with baby #7 at the age of 42, I heard on the evening news that the New England Journal of Medicine had published a study that found women age at a slower rate the older they are when they have babies. Of course! I thought, Leave it to God to think of everything. (I had another baby at 44 and would have been 47 with the last one but miscarried.)
A few years later, while watching a program on centenarians, I  learned that women who live to 100 typically had children later in life. As a 2015 study reported: “A significant association for later maternal age was found whereby women who had their last child beyond the age of 33 years had twice the odds of survival to the top 5th percentile of survival of their birth cohorts compared to women who had their last child by age 29.”
Other studies have observed this situation. For instance, the New England Centenarian Study found that women who had children after the age of 40 were four times more likely to live to 100 than women who had their last child at a younger age.  
Having more children also has a positive effect on a woman’s body. (I know what you are thinking but waist size and gray hair was not considered.) A 2016 study published in Science Daily conducted at Simon Fraser University found that the number of children a woman has can slow the rate at which her body ages; the more kids, the slower the rate. The reason, they concluded is that the more babies a woman has the longer the telomeres.
Much like the little pieces of plastic at the end of a shoelace, they are protective tips at the end of each DNA strand. The longer the telomeres, the faster the cell replication, and thus, slower aging rate.
Even just having babies at all has benefits. Research out of Britain suggests that women who had babies exhibit younger-looking brains compared with women who have not had any. In a study (found here) out of Britain, the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” researchers analyzed the brain structures of 12,000 middle-aged women from the United Kingdom and found significant differences between women who gave birth and women who did not.
Mark's brother (center) & our children and their families at daughter's wedding    
Scientists have only been able to guess as to why this effect occurs, but they ruled out  genetics, education level, or body mass index.  All they can say is that many of the physiological changes that occur during pregnancy, particularly in the brain, may persist beyond delivery and may influence neurobiological aging. 
As an older mother of 8 living children and 2 adopted AIDS orphans, I have two thoughts about this research. 1) I’m thrilled to know of the physical benefits, in addition to the spiritual ones. 2) Whatever the scientific reasons, ultimately, it’s God.  He is the Creator and this is all part of his plan.

Children are a blessing and God blesses us when we have them. They are not always easy, but they are always worth it.  Science has just discovered the added bonus.
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For more inspiration check out Patti's latest bookHoly Hacks: Everyday Ways to Live Your Faith & Get to HeavenOther books include:  Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories from Everyday Families and the best-selling Amazing Grace Series.


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