The age at which you had your first child influences your health at age 40 – study

A good diet and regular exercise are great ways to safeguard our future health; but this study shows there are even more surprising factors to consider – the age a woman had her first child, as well as her marital history.

Findings from a study carried out by researchers at Ohio State University showed that women who had their first child between the ages of 25-35 had a better health at midlife, than those who had their first child in their early twenties (20-24), or in their teen years (15-19).

This means that encouraging women to have their babies in early adulthood may not really be beneficial.

“We’ve had all this focus on the bad effects of teen childbearing and never really asked what happens if these teens waited to early adulthood,” said Kristi Williams, lead author of the study and associate professor of sociology at The Ohio State University.

“The assumption has been that ‘of course, it is better to wait.’ But at least when it comes to the later health of the mother, that isn’t necessarily true.”

In a self-assessed study, the researchers compared 3348 women who had their first birth between 15-35 years.

They were grouped into those that had their first child as teens (ages 15-19), during early adulthood (ages 20-24) and when they were older (ages 25-35).

These women were interviewed every one or two years from 1979 through 2008, and asked to rate their own health at age 40 on a scale from poor to excellent.

The results showed that women who had their first child between ages 25-35 had recorded better health at 40 years than their younger counterparts, but there was no significant difference in midlife health for the women with teen births compared to the women who waited until they were age 20 to 24.

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“Ours is the first U.S. study to find that having your first child in young adulthood is associated with worse self-assessed health decades later for white and black women, when compared to those who wait until they are over 24,” Williams said.

With regards to marital history, this study also counters the assumption that women who had a baby out of wedlock will have a better health if they were married.

It was found that single black mothers who later married actually reported worse health at midlife than those who remained single.

“This result suggests that public policies encouraging marriage among single mothers may have some unintended negative consequences, Williams said.

“Most studies indicate that marriage promotion efforts have been unsuccessful in increasing marriage rates. Our findings suggest that may be a good thing, at least for black women’s health,” she said.

Source: Science Daily

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