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During my last pregnancy I was an "advanced maternal age" mom. It wasn't by design — I would have gladly had my children earlier in life when I had more energy (far, far more energy). But as life would have it I didn't even meet my husband until I was 26. We married when I was 31 and our children were born when I was 32 and 35. Hearing the term "advanced maternal age" repeatedly while pregnant was a gentle kick in the pants each time. A reminder that I was old, my body was old, my eggs were old, old, old.
Not just all risk anymore
A woman is considered to be of "advanced maternal age" if she is pregnant over the age of 35. Along with the lovely title, pregnancy over 35 increases the risk factor in several areas including genetic conditions, miscarriage, delivery via cesarean, gestational diabetes, pregnancy-induced hypertension and placental issues. But there is now a silver lining to this designation: Older moms seem to live longer. Apparently "advanced maternal age" generally equates to an advanced age overall.
Have your last kid later, live longer
Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) analyzed data from the Long Life Family Study a "biopsychosocial and genetic study of 551 families with many members living to exceptionally old ages." BUSM investigators looked at 462 women within those families and compared the age at which their last child was born in correlation to their age at death. The findings were remarkable: Women whose last child was born after age 33 had twice the odds of living to the age of 95 years or more when compared to women whose last child was born by age 29. For this study, only children conceived without medical assistance were considered.
Even more good stuff
The study findings go further, indicating that the same genes which allow a woman to successfully conceive and carry children later in life also slow down the natural rate of aging within the mom herself. "The age at last childbirth can be a rate of aging indicator," said corresponding study author Thomas Perls, M.D., M.P.H. "The natural ability to have a child at an older age likely indicates that a woman's reproductive system is aging slowly, and therefore so is the rest of her body. We think the same genes that allow a woman to naturally have a kid at an older age are the same genes that play a really important role in slowing down the rate of aging and decreasing the risk for age-related diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer."
Don't wait though
Perls warns against attempting to manipulate nature by intentionally delaying pregnancy, however: "Of course this does not mean women should wait to have children at older ages in order to improve their own chances of living longer." It appears as if you either have the genes or you don't, and there is no benefit to increasing risk factors unnecessarily.
So rejoice, fellow "advanced maternal age" mothers. While our bodies may be older when we deliver, apparently we will have the last laugh by outliving those younger moms in the end.