If you’ve ever secretly blamed your kids for giving you gray hairs, well… you were right!
A new study finds that women who have children age 11 years faster than women who don’t have kids – at least on a cellular level.
Researchers from George Mason University analyzed the length of telomeres in the blood samples of nearly 2,000 American women between the ages of 20 and 44, looking for signs of aging. Evidence of aging appears most measurably in telomeres, structures at the end of chromosomes that keep DNA from deteriorating. After adjusting for factors like the women’s age, weight, and socioeconomic background, the researchers found that women with kids had telomeres 4.2 percent shorter than their child-free peers, or “11 years of accelerated cellular aging,” says Anna Pollack, lead author of the paper.
So, what is exactly causing moms to age faster?
Specifically, stress. Pollack highlighted the lack of mandatory maternity leave in the U.S. Additionally, Western cultures don’t have the support of live-in extended family members. Plus, many moms in the U.S. juggle office jobs with family care.
So, what can we do to slow down the aging process?
Nourish your body: Replenish your vitamin and mineral levels post-pregnancy. It takes anywhere from six months to two years to replenish the vital nutrients you utilized when pregnant– omega-3s, iron, folic acid, calcium, and zinc in particular — so work with your doc to get your nutrient levels back on track through diet and supplementation.
Get more zzz`s time: Sleep and stress interact bidirectionally, which means that stress can cause sleep disturbance; likewise, insufficient sleep can stress your entire system. To protect your precious hours of sleep, put your phone on airplane mode and don’t check it during the night. Make your next day’s to-do list before bed; research shows it can keep you from worrying in the middle of the night. And, of course, curb coffee consumption after 2 PM.
Seek your tribe: Good neighbors, mom’s groups, or your own friends can create a helpful sense of community, so you don’t feel you’re bearing the brunt of everything alone. Be proactive about exchanging numbers at the playground and be intentional about staying in touch.
Get a little time for yourself: This can be a challenging one, particularly if you have a taxing job and are trying to balance that with raising kids. Put self-care time on the family calendar and treat it like any other appointment. Schedule personal reading or journaling time, do your nails or take a walk.
Get active and social: Use scheduled me time for meditation, yoga, or even dates with your friends. There’s nothing better than a laugh with a good friend when you’re feeling overwhelmed — and social support goes a long way towards reducing stress. If you feel guilty about the indulgence, remember how much better a mom you are when you feel happy and supported.
At World Stem Cell Clinic, we believe that that having an informed parent –in an effort to empower him and his family– is the only way to for us to deliver optimal healthcare. Visit our website to find out more about our services and be a part of an incredible ASD support community. You are not alone!