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Centenarians 4x more likely to have 1st child in their 40s.

Catherine McDiarmid-Watt | Tuesday, May 01, 2007 | 0 comments

European researchers, drawing on 12 centuries of genealogical records of the British aristocracy, have shown a clear trade-off between early childbearing and longevity.

In an article published last December in Nature, two gerontologists at the University of Manchester found that women who delay having children until their 30s and 40s, and then have only one or two, are more likely to live into their 80s, 90s and beyond. Female longevity, they say, is linked to the number of children a woman has and her age at the birth of her first child.

This study comes in the wake of another carried out in the Boston area by a team of Harvard researchers led by Thomas T. Perls. It showed that centenarians are four times more likely than the general population to have had their first child in their 40s.


Reading these studies, I also found myself thinking of my 80-year-old mother, who is still out on the tennis court lobbing backhands past opponents half her age. In the past, I had attributed her seemingly eternal youth to her hardy Swiss genes -- though her parents died young and looked their age.

But maybe the answer lies more in my belated entrance into her life: She had me at the age of 45.


It could be that if a woman is able to have children in the 11th hour, she is clearly one of the genetic elect. As the authors of the Boston study put it, the ability to have kids after a certain age, say 40, may simply be a marker for longevity: Late pregnancy implies late menopause, which in turn implies the later onset of age-related disease such as Alzheimer's, heart disease and stroke.

According to yet another study, led by Jonathan L. Tully of Massachusetts General Hospital and published last month in Nature Genetics, when the ovaries of geriatric mice are engineered to grow eggs and secrete estrogen into advanced old age -- the equivalent of delaying menopause in humans -- they remain strikingly youthful and robust.


When I got pregnant at 42, my OB was not shocked and the woman in the office prior to my visit was 44 years old. My brother-in-law (OB) saw a lot of post 40 pregnant patients because they were not as diligent about birth control because they thought they were not fertile anymore. Is it harder, yes, impossible, no way.


I hope this gives encouragement as many docs seem to throw in the towel with women over 44 using their own eggs. I was 48, and with first IUI became pregnant with a normal baby girl. Blood work and US showed my gyne health as 25 though.


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About Catherine: I am mom to three grown sons, two grandchildren and two rescue dogs. After years of raising my boys as a single mom, I remarried a wonderful man who had never had a child of his own. Unexpectedly, I found myself pregnant at 49!
Sadly we lost our precious baby at 8 weeks, and decided to try again. Five more losses, turned down for donor egg, foster care and adoption due to my age and losses - we have accepted there will be no more babies in our house.

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