Motherhood ages you faster than smoking

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

The latest from the "I knew it!" files is research that shows motherhood changes us on a cellular level, and it ages us faster than smoking. As someone who has lived through three babies, toddlers and small children, and is currently embarking on the teenage years, I am living proof of this phenomenon – I feel about 150.

I have wrinkles, grey hairs, bags under my eyes, aches in my bones and a general fatigue that hasn't lifted, no matter how much I nap, since 2004.

I find it comforting that I'm not alone though; you're all coming down with me. A new study published in Human Reproduction detailed the changes a woman's body goes through when she has children.

Researchers at George Mason University in the USA looked at 2000 women aged between 20 and 44 and found that the shortening of telomeres in mothers was comparable to women without children who were 11 years older.

What's a telomere and why does it matter? I'm glad you asked.

A telomere is the end portion of a chromosome associated with longevity. As you age, your telomeres get shorter, so experts usually relate longer telomeres with better health and longer life.

Basically, your children are sucking the life right out of you, and finally it's been confirmed by science.

And, of course, the more children you have, the shorter your telomeres are going to be.

"We were surprised to find such a striking result," Anna Pollack, one of the study's researchers, told Newsweek.


"We found that women who had five or more children had even shorter telomeres compared to those who had none, and relatively shorter relative to those who had one, two, three, or four, even."

Even more upsetting is that researchers found this shortening of telomeres was greater than that of smokers or people who are overweight.

Anna acknowledges it's not exactly big news that having kids takes its toll on mums. "Anecdotally, just chatting with my friends who have children, we all do feel that having kids has aged us," she said to Newsweek. "But scientifically, this does fit with what we understand pretty well."

If you're worried this news means you're doing to drop dead 11 years earlier because you had children, never fear. In fact, having children in your thirties has been shown to lengthen your life. So you'll live longer, but just feel older the whole time you're doing it.

Feeling better? Me neither. But at least we're all in this together.