From sleepless nights, to being on call 24 hours a day plus the endless emotional support, it can be hard to imagine how being a mum might be good for your health. But research has shown that, not only is motherhood good for your emotional well-being, but it also boosts your physical health.
It can reduce risk of heart disease
Of course, having lots of kids can be hard work, but there’s good news for mums with a big brood! Research suggests that women who’ve been pregnant multiple times may be less likely to die from heart disease, and those who’ve been pregnant four times are half as likely to be killed by a stroke. Other research suggests that mothers who breastfeed for 12 months during their lifetime have a lower risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease too.
It lowers risk of certain cancers
Research has shown that becoming a mum may lower your risk of developing certain types of cancer. In fact, a UK study has suggested that a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer reduces with every child she has, while other research has found that having children reduces the risk of womb cancer by around a third.
And there’s good news for women who breastfeed. Breastfeeding has been associated with an 11 per cent reduced risk in endometrial cancer. Plus, it significantly lowers your risk of getting breast cancer, especially when you’re younger.
It may increase life expectancy
As well as multiple term pregnancies being associated with longevity, one study suggests that women who have their first child at age 25 or older may be more likely to live to the age of 90.
This may be positive news for many mums, with figures from the Office for National Statistics showing that the average age of a first-time mum in England and Wales is now over 30.
It boosts happiness…once you’re over 40
Research is still divided on whether being a parent makes you happier, but one study has suggested that while the satisfaction for mothers with young children decreases with the number of offspring they have, from age 40 onwards, it’s the other way around, with more children generally meaning more happiness for parents.
It may sharpen your brain
Forget baby brain! Some research suggests that motherhood actually causes the brain to grow. Researchers believe that hormonal changes following the birth of a child may help a mother’s brain reshape in response to their offspring and may even enhance areas associated with learning and memory.
It encourages personal growth
Liz Ritchie, a psychotherapist for St Andrew’s Healthcare, says: ‘We can’t pretend that motherhood doesn’t bring stress and anxiety, but being a mum also helps you develop qualities which can lead to huge personal growth. For example, as a mother you often have to dig deep for resources, and this can lead to you developing great strength, ambition, patience, humility and empathy.
It increases motivation
Liz says: ‘Becoming a parent makes you want to be the best version of yourself for your child. You’re more likely to drop bad habits such as smoking and develop good ones like being more mindful of your own health. Becoming a mum also teaches you to be very adaptive. This can help us develop lots of transferable skills which are invaluable in the workplace such as prioritising, efficacy and keeping calm under pressure. Being motivated to do the best thing by our children to help them thrive often means we’re more motivated to push ourselves to succeed too.’
It provides a strong sense of purpose
Research suggests that having goals and a sense of purpose is vital in helping humans to find meaning in life.
Liz says: ‘Becoming a mum brings fresh perspective and provides real focus in life. From the early stages when we’re caring for their primal needs, to later in life when they may lean on us more emotionally, our children are the absolute centre of our whole world. And with that comes deep satisfaction and purpose. When we step back and look at the child we’ve raised, we feel incredibly proud of them, but also of ourselves, and that’s incredibly fulfilling.’
Edited by Stephanie May
● For info about St Andrew’s Healthcare, visit stah.org