Research Alert

Newswise — Researchers at Yale School of Medicine find in a 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 , 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.

"I have always been fascinated by pregnancy," O'Donnell says. "The biological changes that a pregnant individual’s body experiences are truly remarkable. Our study highlights another remarkable feature of pregnancy: the body’s capacity to recover".   

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. "Likewise, we don’t know if the postpartum decrease in biological age is simply the system recovering to pre-pregnancy biological age," says O'Donnell, "or, more provocatively, if pregnancy may have a rejuvenating effect.”

The study's senior author was Hung Pham. Study authors included Tara Thompson-Felix, Adam Lombroso and Sonja Entringer.