Having a Son May Shorten a Mother’s Life Expectancy

by , 03/05/13

mothers life expectancy, mothers of sons life expectancy, Samuli Helle, maternal health, maternal wellness, lifespan of mothers of sons
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Recently we learned that scientists discovered son’s cells living in their mother’s brains, and now research indicates that having a son may shorten a mother’s lifespan. “It seems that boys are much more demanding to produce than girls.” This is according to Samuli Helle, co-author of a study that suggests boys truncate the lifespan of their mothers by almost a full year. Furthermore Scientific America notes that “…a woman’s risk of death increased by 7% per year for each son born — a small but statistically robust effect.”

“Baby sons … make a much greater physical demand on the mother’s body than do typically smaller daughters, and this may actually lead to a shorter life for the mother,” reads one line from an recent LA Times article detailing the study originally published in the journal Science. Mothers of girls will be pleased, (or relieved rather?) that the study also deduced that, “Daughters nurtured to adulthood helped prolong mothers’ lives.” But read on to learn why this data, while fascinating, is too narrowly focused and correlational to cause any valid concern.

mothers life expectancy, mothers of sons life expectancy, Samuli Helle, maternal health, maternal wellness, lifespan of mothers of sons
Image courtesy of Shutterstock

It should be noted that the study may not correlate with modern standards, or even Western ones. The researchers looked at historical data between 1640 to 1870 collected on a group of nomadic Finns called the Sami. And Helle advises that with the advent of fetal healthcare and wide-ranging medical resources available to moms, the impact that a son might have on shortening his mother’s life today is so minimal it may not even be traceable. On a final note, having a son did not affect the life expectancy of fathers — but we’re pretty certain once their daughters begin to date, dads will be getting their fair share of gray hairs.

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