Can having children in later life extend life expectancy?

Could test tube babies the way forward for reproduction?

According to Professor Carl Djerassi, the inventor of the pill the answer is yes. He believes in the next 35 years people will no longer be having sex to reproduce but only for fun. As more people will use IVF to have babies as ‘the norm’ with more people having children later in life.

“Over the next few decades,” Djerassi told the Telegraph. “Say by the year 2050, more IVF fertilisations will occur among fertile women than the current five million fertility-impaired ones. For them the separation between sex and reproduction will be 100 per cent.”

There are many reasons why people are having children later on in life; better contraception, pursuing careers, better education. But Dr. Ken R. Smith of the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, has suggested that having children later in life may actually increase longevity.

According to his study he found that women who had children in their 40s and 50s lived longer. Women who can have children relatively late in life without assisted reproduction technology (ART) lived longer.

Photo courtesy of Torsten Mangner

Photo courtesy of Torsten Mangner

However, this doesn’t mean that everyone should start having children later in life. It is more to do with genetics.

Smith explains, “It’s not women choosing to have kids late in life, it just simply reflects their ability to have kids late in life.” If the women in your family had children after 33 then you may be more fertile in your 30s and 40s, thanks to your genes.

So according to the study the people who have children when they’re older tend to live longer. If women are able to have children later in life this means that their reproductive organs and other organs are ageing slower.

The ‘grandma theory’ also supports this idea of longevity. In most mammals the mother barely lives past child-bearing age, but humans manage to surpass this and live well after their child-bearing years due to evolution.

It suggests that when grandmas help feed their grandchildren after weaning the mother can produce more children in a shorter space of time. By helping their daughters to have more children, those that lived long enough to become grandmothers passed on the longevity gene to more descendants resulting in longer life spans.

Related articles:

Late Childbearing leads to longer life

What sex will be like in 35 years 

Do women who have children at older ages live longer? 

New study supports Grandmother hypothesis

Feature photo courtesy of Eric McGregor

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