Pregnancy And Longevity – What Every Mom Should Know

Pregnancy brings many physical changes to a woman’s body.

While there are, of course, the common aches, pains, and fatigue, there are many positive changes that pregnancy makes to a woman’s body.

But the question on many women’s minds is, what are the effects of pregnancy on my body as I age?

As moms, we love to tell stories about our pregnancy symptoms and childbirth experiences.

They are not always positive, and that is because all of the hormonal and physical changes we go through can leave us feeling like we’ve been run over by a truck!

The good news is, most of the changes that occur are temporary, but some can have long-lasting effects.

As our weight increases during pregnancy, our joints, ligaments, and muscles have to adapt to carrying the load.

Dr. Iffath Hoskins tells U.S. News and World Report that, “Carrying a baby is like carrying a 20- to 40-pound backpack for nine months.”

Depending on the number of children you have, this strain causes some permanent damage, but is often nothing that is so significant that it inhibits mobility or quality of life.

Similarly, as the muscles in the abdomen stretch and organs are pushed upward, some women have lasting issues with incontinence – especially after multiple pregnancies.

These issues, however, can often be resolved with the help of targeted muscle strengthening exercises (remember those Kegels you did during pregnancy?), so be sure to see your physician if you are experiencing a problem.

Pregnancy has also been linked to high blood pressure and diabetes, however, pregnancy itself is really not the cause of these issues.

Women who have high blood pressure during pregnancy or develop gestational diabetes are at higher risk of developing conditions like Type 2 diabetes later in life – but – this is contributed more to diet, lack of exercise, or genetic predisposition during and after pregnancy.

“The pregnancy is only unmasking what was going to happen anyway. It may hasten the ultimate outcome,” says Dr. Hoskins, but is not the cause.

We all know the old joke – “This kid’s taking years off my life!”  But is that really the case?

Well, there are definitely some effects from pregnancy on our aging process, but obviously, women who have children are generally not dying younger than women who never have kids.

Although each subsequent pregnancy puts stress on our bodies and can cause some cellular damage, much of that has to do with our bodies’ unique immune responses to pregnancy.

Dr. Calen Ryan believes that an altered immune system during pregnancy – which must accommodate foreign cells from another human – may be to blame. “The idea is that as the body is putting energy into the immune system, it might have less energy to maintain itself in other ways,” according to U.S. News.

Mommy Underground recently reported on how the body’s immune response during pregnancy can affect conditions like postpartum depression or anxiety.

But, like everything else, most research concludes that the key to longevity and health lies in how we take care of our bodies – our diets, physical activity, and genetic and environmental factors are all in play.

There is plenty of good news for moms, however.

Some studies have shown that having children may be associated with “longer telomeres,” the protective casings at the ends of our chromosomes – and longer telomeres often mean longer life.

The best news of all is that pregnancy and breastfeeding can significantly reduce the risk of many female cancers – especially breast cancer.

With each pregnancy, more and more protection against breast cancer is acquired because estrogen – which feeds cancer cells – lowers during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute states that even women with a genetic predisposition to breast cancer, including a mutation to the BRCA-1 gene that increases lifetime risk, can decrease their cancer risk by nearly 50 percent if they breastfeed for two or more years.  (Although their risk is still greater than women without the mutation.)

And although being a mom can make us feel crazy sometimes, the constant – and we mean constant!!  — companionship is actually good for us.

Human beings are social creatures and having our kids around can fend off feelings of loneliness and isolation.  Positive feelings like these also ward off disease and improve brain function as we get older.

So, if you’re a mom who feels frazzled and crazy all the time, remember, the kids will only be little for a short time.

If you take care of yourself and avoid the pitfalls that stress can cause – like poor diet, overeating, and lack of activity – you’ll find that the kids help keep you active, and your body and mind running smoothly.

What do you think of the remarkable effects of pregnancy on a woman’s body?  Leave us your thoughts.

 

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