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Having a baby after 35 may help mom’s memory

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Women who have their last pregnancy at age 35 or older may have better memories as they age, compared to women who get pregnant when they are younger, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

“It’s not clear why having a baby later in life would help your memory, but those women may experience a later-in-life surge of estrogen and progesterone”, says lead author Professor Roksana Karim, MD. In animal studies, these hormones have been shown to benefit brain function and growth.

In humans, estrogen and progesterone decline after menopause. Often, so do cognitive skills like memory. Having higher levels of these hormones at an older age may have a protective effect, Dr. Karim and her colleagues hypothesized.

In the study, the researchers gave 830 post-menopausal women a series of tests to measure different types of memory, attention and concentration, planning, visual perception, and reaction time. They also recorded their reproductive history.

After taking into account other factors like age, race, ethnicity, income, and education, the researchers determined that women who had their last pregnancy after age 35 scored highest on tests of verbal memory.

This observational study was only able to find an association between these reproductive factors and mental abilities and not a cause-and-effect relationship.

This is the second bit of encouraging news for women who don’t want to have kids in their early 20s. A University of California San Diego study recently found that “older” moms (over 25 when they first gave birth) were 11% more likely to live to age 90.

We should not forget though that the older a pregnant woman is, the more risks she and her baby face, especially over the age of 40.


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