All women who have gone through pregnancy and childbirth have noticed their appearance change. Aside from the obvious bulging of the stomach, throughout the pregnancy, expecting mothers will see weight gain, bigger breasts, stretch marks, larger noses, and so on. Many will also start to notice signs of premature aging.
Many women start to see more gray hair, fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation. They might also start to feel aches and pains throughout the body. But why is that? Studies found that having a child does speed up aging.
Changes at the Cellular Level
Researchers conducted in the Philippines involving over 800 Filipino women between the ages of 20 and 22 with various reproductive histories. To assess the impact of childbirth on cellular aging, the researchers looked at two distinct markers: telomere length and epigenetic age.
In a paper published in the journal Scientific Reports, the researchers revealed that both telomere length and epigenetic age appeared older among women with more pregnancies.
Telomeres are the caps at the end of each strand of DNA. It shortens with age. The length of the telomeres, the higher the likelihood of diseases and death. Meanwhile, the epigenetic age is a person’s biological age. It is separate from chronological age, which is measured through the year a person spends on Earth. Your epigenetic age results from how your behaviors and your environment have affected the way your genes work.
The more children the mother has, the greater their impact on her telomere length and epigenetic age. The researchers also added that the aging increased about six months and two years after each pregnancy. In contrast, the cells of those who are pregnant were considerably younger.
The shortening of telomeres after pregnancy and childbirth is supported by the results of another study, this one involving the data of around 2,000 women between the ages of 20 and 44, which compared the telomeres of women with and without children. Experts said that these effects of pregnancy and childbirth are comparable to or greater than smoking and obesity.
All mothers and their doctors will not be surprised to find out that the experience ages the body. Both pregnancy and childbirth — and raising a baby — cause extreme stress. Moreover, it also leads to significant changes within the body, such as hormonal imbalances, shifts in the bone structure, and brain shrinking.
Can It Be Reversed?
Whether the impacts of pregnancy and childbirth on a mother’s telomere length and epigenetic age are permanent is still unknown. Scientists have begun looking into it to find the answer.
But, previous studies suggest that at least some of it can be reversed. Researchers recently revealed a clinical trial where participants between the ages of 50 and 72, all men, underwent an eight-week program where they were tasked to follow a stringent healthy diet, regular exercise, and meditation. The researchers found that participants, after the experiment, reduced their epigenetic age by two years.
Separate research conducted by scientists in Israel gives hope that the shortening of telomeres can be reversed. In a previously published paper, the researchers detailed how 26 patients who sat in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber five 90-minute sessions per week over the course of three months extended their telomere length by 20 percent. More research is needed to prove that hyperbaric oxygen exposure can reverse telomere shortening and, therefore, cellular aging.
How to Look Younger After Pregnancy and Childbirth
Some physical changes caused by pregnancy and childbirth are irreversible. The stomach will go back to normal. Eventually, the weight gained can be lost, and hyperpigmentation may lighten over time.
However, the stretch marks, unfortunately, despite what certain skincare products claim, will never disappear. They may become less noticeable over time as they heal, but they are permanent. The fine lines and wrinkles can be reduced through a Botox procedure, but you have to wait until you have stopped breastfeeding.
Women who are unhappy and not confident over their post-baby appearance can gain back their pre-pregnancy look by exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet. Although it will be challenging with a baby at home, mothers should also try to get ample sleep every night. Eventually, the physical signs of pregnancy and childbirth will be diminished.
Being a mother is a blessing, but it will be very stressful. The body will change as a human being develops in the uterus. After the baby is born, some of those changes will not disappear. However, they can be improved by making healthier choices pos-baby.