Giving Birth After 40 Signals

Long Life Ahead, Study Finds

Boston Gtobe


Being able to have a baby after age 40 - naturally, without hightech intervention - is a strong sign that a woman is aging slowly and may live a long life, according to a provocative study in the current journal Nature.

In a comparison of two groups of women from the Boston area, all born in 1896, the researchers found that those who reached age loo were four times as likely to have had children in their 40s as those who lived only to age 73.

Having a baby near menopause does not, in itself, prolong life, the researchers note. It is a woman's ability to have a child into her 40s - not whether she does - that correlates with longer life.

There is no evidence that using medical interventions to have a child when fertility is waning is linked to longer life. But when it occurs spontaneously, "having children relatively later in life is a good indicator that your reproductive system is aging slowly and therefore that the rest of you is, too," says geriatrician Dr. Thomas Perls, who conducted the research with obstetrician- gynecologist Dr. Ruth Fretts. Both doctors work at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Uenter in Boston.

Remaining fertile well into her 40s, they say, means that a woman's ovaries are making significant amounts of the hormone estrogen, which may prolong life by protecting against cardiovascular problems, Alzheimer's and other diseases. The study also supports the theory that hormone replacement therapy at menopause may help prolong life, the researchers say.


San Francisco Chronical 8/10/97