Study: Pregnancy accelerates biological aging

April 4, 2024
Effect reversed postpartum, researchers say.

Researchers at Yale School of Medicine find in a new study that pregnancy accelerates aging. The good news: There appears to be a significant reversal of the effect in the first few months after childbirth.

Using data from blood samples collected from early to late pregnancy and at three months postpartum, senior author Kieran O'Donnell, PhD, and his team found that women's biological or epigenetic age increased by an average of about 2 years over 5 months.

However, the effect may be reversed after childbirth: "At three months postpartum, we saw a remarkably large decrease in biological age, by as much as eight years for some individuals," O'Donnell says, "so while pregnancy increases biological age there is a clear (and pronounced) recovery in the postpartum."

Researchers say women with higher pre-pregnancy BMI saw less aging recovery in the first three months postpartum, and women who breastfed saw a steeper decline in biological age after childbirth.

The authors say further research will help determine whether this postpartum recovery effect is relevant for short- or long-term maternal health outcomes, or whether the effect is compounded by multiple pregnancies.

Yale release on Newswise