Women who give birth to their first child later in life are more likely to live into their 90s, according to a study from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.
The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, was the first to link a woman’s age at childbirth with a longer life.
“We found that women who had their first child at age 25 or older were more likely to live to age 90,” said Aladdin Shadyab, PhD, lead author of the study with the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “The findings indicate that women with two to four term pregnancies compared with a single term pregnancy were also more likely to live at least nine decades.”
Many women today delay motherhood due to factors such as pursuing a higher education and achieving career goals. For years, studies have associated having a child later in life to various health complications for both the mother and child.
The multi-year study looked at nearly 28,000 postmenopausal women in the United States. Out of all the women in the study, about half survived to the age of 90.
According to Shadyab, what distinguished the women who lived to 90 was that they had their first child later in life. Those same women were also more likely to have a college education, be married and have a higher income. The study discovered that women who had their first child after 25 were 11 percent more likely to live to 90, compared to women who had children before 25.
Additionally, women who had two to four children were more likely to live longer than those who just had one. However, this new finding was only true for white women and not black women.
“Our findings do not suggest that women should delay having a child, as the risk of obstetric complications, including gestational diabetes and hypertension, is higher with older maternal ages. It is possible that surviving a pregnancy at an older age may be an indicator of good overall health, and as a result, a higher likelihood of longevity,” said Shadyab. “It is also possible that women who were older when they had their first child were of a higher social and economic status, and therefore, were more likely to live longer.”
Shadyab says that more research is needed to understand what social factors explain the link between age of first childbirth and parity with longevity.
Danielle Tarasiuk is a multimedia journalist based in Los Angeles. Her work has been published on AllDay.com, Yahoo! Sports, KCET, and NPR-affiliate stations KPCC and KCRW. She’s a proud Sarah Lawrence College and USC Annenberg alumn.