Higher maternal age may be a marker of healthy aging
Anyone who is of “advanced maternal age” can tell you that having a baby later can be a pretty stressful experience, thanks to doctors who like to constantly remind you of the danger of using that dusty old womb to reproduce. But there is some much-needed positive reinforcement on the horizon today, in the form of a study that confirms that higher maternal age of successful childbearing may be a marker of a longer, healthier life.
“This study suggests that a higher maternal age of successful child bearing may be a marker of healthy aging,” says Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, North American Menopause Society executive director. The study focuses on telomere length as a predictor of longevity. Telomeres are the caps at the end of each strand of DNA that protect our chromosomes. “As people age, the length of telomeres decreases. Longer lengths are typically associated with better health,” reports News-Medical. In this study, women who were of advanced maternal age when they had their last child “were found to have increased odds of being in the longest tertile of telomere length.”
Translation: they’re likely to live longer, healthier lives.
I wish I would have known this during my second pregnancy. I was panicked almost the entire time about my old, dusty womb. I envisioned young pregnant women with wombs that looked like the magic bottle from I Dream of Jeannie – all pink satin and overstuffed throw pillows. Mine probably looked like the elderly Estella’s attic from Great Expectations; all dust and overgrown vines. How would my child grow surrounded by all that dust? I’ll never forget the first interaction I had with an ultrasound tech during that “advanced maternal age” pregnancy. I walked in the room, smiled, and said, “Hi.” She responded with, “How old are you?”
“Thirty-nine,” I said.
“Forty?” She replied.
“No, thirty-nine.” I insisted.
“Almost forty,” she decided.
“Fine. Almost forty,” I conceded.
I sort of felt like she was the doorman, and I was the old lady trying to get into the club. She looked me up and down disapprovingly, then let me through the velvet rope to the VIP room of age-shaming; the genetic testing department. Here a woman whispered to me about the 5,000 different types of genetic abnormalities they can test for in “a woman my age.” Holy crap. She really was whispering and leaning in close and it was totally freaking me out. It was almost like she was saying, “I won’t tell anyone how old you are if you don’t! Let’s just quick test for these 5,000 different ways you probably screwed your child up because your old ass insisted on having a baby.”
It’s about time us older mothers get some good news. I’m 42 now and I have two healthy, young children. And according to this study I won’t have one foot in the grave for most of their important life-milestones, like so many people love to suggest when speaking about older moms.
So instead of being overcome with all the ways that we may not be breeding a perfect human because we waited too long to do it – maybe we can start relaxing in the idea that our bodies are smarter and stronger than we give them credit for.