Late-in-life pregnancy could predict longevity

BY Nora Daly  June 26, 2014 at 5:35 PM EST
A woman's ability to become pregnant late in life may indicate potential for increased longevity. Photo by Flickr user J.K. Califf

A woman’s ability to become pregnant late in life may indicate potential for increased longevity. Photo by Flickr user J.K. Califf

A new study released Wednesday indicates a possible correlation between a woman’s ability to give birth naturally later in life and overall longevity.

The findings, released by the Boston University School of Medicine and published by the journal Menopause, based on data collected from the Long Life Family Study, showed that women who gave birth after the age of 33, without the assistance of fertility drugs or other treatments, were twice as likely to live to be 95 or older.

Dr. Thomas Perls, a Boston University professor specializing in geriatrics and a co-author of the study, was careful to clarify that these results do “not mean women should wait to have children at older ages in order to improve their own chances of living longer.” Rather, it appears that the ability to give birth late in life might serve as a “rate of aging indicator.” The same genetic variants that cause the body to age more slowly may affect the reproductive system, giving women who possess these variants a wider childbearing window. Because these women are reproductively active longer, the likelihood of passing down the genes could also be increased. Says Perls, “This possibility may be a clue as to why 85 percent of women live to 100 or more years while only 15 percent of men do.”

Perls and his co-authors believe the results of the study support continued research into the genetic influences of reproductive fitness, as these same genes may influence longevity, as well as susceptibility to age-related illness.