A new study published in BMC Medicine takes a look at things like the age of a woman’s first period, her use of oral contraceptives, as well as childbirth and breastfeeding, and compared the presence of these factors to their overall health.
The study found that “childbirth, breast-feeding, oral contraceptive use, and a later age at menarche were associated with better health outcomes.”
Now for the obvious question: Why? If I’m a single, childless woman who got her period at age thirteen, am I unhealthy? Absolutely not. Let’s break this study down.
The researchers studied 322,972 women ages 25 to 70, gathering the applicable data. They returned thirteen years later, and 14,383 of the women studied had died. By looking at the info they had gathered, it appears that the risk of death was lower in women who had given birth, breast-fed, taken oral contraceptives, or gotten their period after age fifteen.
However, women who didn’t fall under these categories weren’t necessarily knocking on death’s door. In fact, the researcher’s “data did not suggest that nulliparous [non-childbearing] women had poorer health as their BMI, physical activity levels, and smoking status were similar to parous women.”
Like with most studies, these findings have everything to do with association, but nothing has been determined to actually cause death. It could have everything to do with factors associated with these conditions. For instance, a woman who has had a child and has breast-fed might have her life more together than someone like me, who ate three cookies for dinner last night.
These studies are not here to scare anyone, but instead serve as an important reminder to stay on top of your health.