Women who have kids later on in life may live longer, according to the findings of a recent study.
Following the birth of a woman’s last child, certain measurements may be linked with her projected lifespan, according to a study published Wednesday in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).
More specifically, leukocyte telomere length – telomeres “are repeating DNA-protein complexes that protect the ends of chromosomes and have proven to be critical for maintaining genomic stability,” per a news release on the findings – may play a role in a woman’s longevity. A woman’s age at the birth of her last child may affect telomere length, ultimately impacting long-term health, the researchers said.
Longer telomeres are thought to be beneficial for long-term health, while shorter ones can signify “various chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some neurologic conditions, and various cancers,” past studies have suggested, according to the news release.
At least one previous study has suggested that a woman’s age at the birth of her last child affected telomere length, said researchers. The study published Wednesday was larger, including more than 1,200 perimenopausal and postmenopausal women of “various ethnicities and backgrounds.”
“In addition, unlike previous studies, this study took into consideration sociodemographic factors related to childbearing patterns and health decisions,” per the release.
The researchers who conducted the new study found that a woman’s age at the birth of her final child “is positively associated with telomere length, meaning that women who delivered their last child later in life were likely to have longer telomeres, a biomarker of long-term health and longevity.”
However, “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,” said Dr. Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director, in a statement.
The findings were also limited to women who had one or two live births or those who had used birth control orally, they said.