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The Reason Behind Women Aging Faster After Pregnancy

Pregnancy and childbirth are a transformative experience in any woman’s life.

However, a recent scientific study revealed that motherhood can have unexpected consequences for women’s health. In fact, the results show women may age faster at the cellular level following pregnancy.


While both pregnancy and childbirth are exhausting, the research looks beyond the obvious by studying the blood cells of pregnant women. It explains why aging happens exaggeratedly during their most fertile years.

The biological age of young women with children ranked higher than that of older women who hadn’t conceived

One of the study’s most significant findings was the difference in biological age between the groups studied. Scientists used new tools, which refer to DNA methylation, to examine diverse aspects of cellular age, health, and mortality risk. These “epigenetic clocks” can study aging earlier in life.

“Epigenetic clocks have revolutionized how we study biological aging across the life course and open up new opportunities to study how and when long-term health costs of reproduction and other life events take hold,” said Calen Ryan, PhD, an associate research scientist in the Columbia Aging Center, and lead author in the study.

Adding, “Our findings suggest that pregnancy speeds up biological aging and that these effects are apparent in young, high-fertility women. Our results are also the first to follow the same women through time, linking changes in each woman’s pregnancy number to changes in her biological age.”

One of the key findings in the research states that women who were pregnant or had multiple pregnancies more often looked biologically older than those with fewer pregnancies or who had not been pregnant.

“Ultimately, I think our findings highlight the potential long-term impacts of pregnancy on women’s health and the importance of taking care of new parents, especially young mothers,” Ryan said.

Stress also plays a key role in aging

Pregnancy triggers a cascade of physiological changes in a woman’s body, ranging from hormonal fluctuations to increased metabolic demands. These changes are essential for supporting fetal development and ensuring a successful pregnancy. However, they may also exert stressors on the body, contributing to accelerated aging processes.

Hormonal shifts during pregnancy, such as elevated levels of estrogen and progesterone, can influence cellular functions and may impact DNA methylation patterns. Additionally, the metabolic demands of pregnancy and the associated oxidative stressors can contribute to cellular damage and speed up aging.

The implications of accelerated aging following pregnancy extend far beyond the postpartum period. Women who experience accelerated aging may be at increased risk of developing age-related diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cognitive decline, later in life. Accelerated aging may also affect reproductive health and fertility as women age.

The good news is that accelerated aging could be reversed

Despite the study’s finding on accelerated aging, there’s still hope.

Kieran J. O’Donnell, an assistant professor at the Yale Child Study Center who was involved in one of the studies, said aging can be reversed. Stating that aging “seemed to reverse for most women within three months after birth.” The pattern of DNA markers on mothers “soon reverted to an earlier, more youthful state.”

The news are even better for breastfeeding mothers. For those who breastfed exclusively in the first three months postpartum, the DNA markers “overshot the mark, leaving them apparently younger biologically than before, by as much as eight years.”

Our take on all of this? Women’s bodies are incredible.