The Health Benefits of Being a Mom
May 12, 2018
The bad parts of pregnancy get plastered around pop culture. Constant references to pain, abstinence, and morning sickness litter the mainstream of modern-day America. What often gets overlooked is the parts of being a mother that are good for you. That’s right — there are many health benefits of being a mom.
The Health Benefits of Being a Mom
Motherhood is stressful, as is pregnancy. You have to learn to be prepared for everything from wet diapers to medical emergencies. There’s a lot of figuring out to do, especially the first time around. If there’s a new person in the house, where are they going to fit? Even as they grow older and you grow more experienced, things rarely get easier. Your child will always be your child, though, and the stress will always be worth it.
In the past, we’ve written extensively about the things that make motherhood so stressful. All the problems that children run into, and how you might deal with them. Like much of the rest of the world, we’ve focused largely on the parts of motherhood that you might not want to think about. However, there is more to pregnancy and motherhood than just the bad stuff. As a matter of fact, both have more health benefits than you likely know.
A Longer Life
Have you ever head the word microchimerism?
If you haven’t, you should learn it. Microchimerism is an exchange that happens between a mother and her child during pregnancy. Specifically, microchimerism refers to the exchanging of cells between the two. While this equips the baby with the nutrients needed for survival, it also provides the mother with fetal cells from the placenta. Even after the baby is born, some of these cells remain.
In 2014, a Danish study revealed something amazing: these fetal cells are linked to a significant increase in lifespan. They tested mothers with male babies against mothers with female babies and found that the two groups had a pretty glaring difference. 85% of women with male fetal cells lived to more than 80 years of age, while mothers of female babies were only 67% likely to live beyond 80. The reasoning isn’t entirely clear, though it’s expected that these cells are better able to detect infections and other problems within the bloodstream.
It is important to note that pregnancy is not the only instance in which microchimerism takes place, although it is the most common. Other types of blood transfusions can have the same effect, especially between fraternal twins. However, it is unclear if this form of microchimerism has the same effect as microchimerism during pregnancy.
It has also been suggested that motherhood has a general, “cascading” effect on health. It seems unlikely that this has much to do with the biological effects of motherhood, and is more about the psychological change. After having a child, many women become more focused on their health and well-being, which of course leads to better health.
A Less Painful Life
In addition to extending your life, motherhood can also take away a lot of pain — or at least risk for pain. The most direct way motherhood does this is by lessening the effects of your period. Giving birth, despite the stress, requires every part of a vagina to relax. This can carry over beyond labor to reduce the flow and pain of a period. This is especially noticeable in people with endometriosis, who sometimes feel no effects at all after pregnancy. However, this is not to be relied on. Not all women feel this relief after pregnancy, though it is common.
Beyond periods, pregnancy and motherhood can lower the risk of a plethora of health problems. Heart disease is one of the most notable of the bunch. Heart disease is the number one cause of death of women in the USA, but pregnancy might be able to change that. A study found that women who had 4 or more pregnancies were significantly less likely to pass away as a result of stroke than women with no or fewer pregnancies. While it is unclear why this effect occurs, the leading theory is that the boost of estrogen caused by pregnancy helps to offset loss during menopause.
Other than heart disease, motherhood can also lower the risk of breast cancer, multiple sclerosis, and gynecological cancers.
A Happier Life
While a long, and less painful life, is already good, what makes things even better is how great motherhood feels. Yes, pregnancy can lead to mood swings, and you do have to worry about post-partum depression. However, motherhood also opens the door to some of the most intense joy a person could ever feel. The dose of oxytocin released in a mother when she first holds her child is so strong that it can ward off anxiety for days, or even weeks. And that joy will never go away.
Happy Mother’s Day!