Does having babies improve a woman's overall health in any way?

Does carrying and having babies make women less pre-disposed to suffer any particular ailments?

There’s less breast and uterine cancer in women who are “grand multips” (having more than 8 kids). Of course the reduction in risk from these diseases does not compensate for the increase in risk associated with pregnancy in the first place.

I read a theory a few years ago (sorry, can’t instantly put my finger on a cite) that evolution has prepared women to be either pregnant or nursing for most of their reproductive life; therefore, the pill or other birth controls were detrimental to women’s health, since they perpetuated an “unatural” condition of frequent menstruation.

Of course that probably didn’t take into account the frequent deaths from childbirth over the last million years.

I read somewhere that if a women has a baby boy it will cut the mothers life by 33 weeks or something and if she has a girl it adds to the mothers life by some weeks. It was in Yahoo! news a long time ago.

Yes, musicat, the female body is sort of programmed to be pregnant or nursing almost constantly during the reproductive years. But this does not mean that failing to nurse and be pregnant constantly is a health threat.

Pregnancy, childbirth, and lactation are tremendously intense physiologic processes, which deplete a woman’s resources in an extreme way. While they are natural processes, they quite naturally result in up to a 50% mortality rate over time due to complications along the way in primitive societies.

Thanks to better nutrition and more sanitary conditions, that rate of mortality dropped substantially. But pregnancy is still an inherently risky state, where many things can and do go wrong, sometimes quite abruptly and disastrously. As a physician I did deliveries for 7 years before I gave it up. Delivering babies was 95% pleasure and 5% sheer panic.

In “Night Falls Fast,” psychiatrist Kay Redfield Jamison wrote that being pregnant makes a woman less likely to commit suicide.

Also evolution has set it up that people and aminals should die shortly after their reproductive years are over (given the time required to rasise the offspring, if required). This is though to limit competition for food and resources for the new generation. We are now living much longer than that so I don’t think the above is valid.

Over the years I have heard some benifits, not gret ones and not ones I can remember except if you raise them right they just may be changing your diapers one day, which is a benifit you shouldn’t discount.

There are some permanent changes in hormone levels after the first pregnancy. IIRC, the concentration dehydroepiandrosterone and a few other steroids are increased. This does affect the immune system, but it’s been too many years, and the refs are too hard to find for me to say any more about the effects.

Endometriosis?

The condition decreases the chances of the woman getting pregnant, but if she does get pregnant the hormonal changes during pregnancy knocks the uterus back into shape?

By the way Musicat, hormonal- and barrier-method birth control are very different things. The don’t birth control pills still work by unnaturally elevating the hormones associated with pregnancy for an unnaturally short period of time? Much different from allowing the body to cycle through its natural hormones.

I recall from my OB-GYN class- nuns have a near zero rate of cervical CA- sex does obviously have some role; but a higher rate of breast cancer-pregnancy (& breast feeding AFAIK) reduces rates of breast CA.

True. But the theory to which I referred – and by no means subscribe to – claimed that menstruation, rare in primitive, “evolutionary-pure” societies, would be allowed to happen more frequently if chemical or barrier methods of birth control were available.

“Evolutionary-pure.” I just made that up.

The biggest benifit, if you raise the kids right, is that you can mouch off of them in your old age.

I believe that carrying a pregnancy to term and breast-feeding for one year before age 30 cut a woman’s lifetime risk of breast cancer in half.

All cervical cancers are caused by the HPV virus. HPV is an STD, so virgins can’t get cervical cancer. It’s not related to pregnancy.

Pregnancy, especially multiple pregnancies, increases a woman’s risk of diabetes.

For a tiny percentage of women, giving birth causes psychosis.

That’s all I can think of now.

cite?

cite?

cite?

Lest anyone accuse me of not playing by the same rules as I impose on lyrl, here is a cite to the theory I have been describing about modern women having fewer periods and therefore being “unnatural.”

Please don’t shoot the messenger. I’m not saying I agree with this theory, but I find it thought-provoking.

Musicat, that theory, which has quite a bit of supporting evidence, from memory, is why some doctors are suggesting that if you are on the pill anyway, not taking the break to have your period each month.

Pharmaceutical companies are responding, with new pills like Seasonale (available in the US) that reduce your menstruation down to four periods a year, taking hormonal birth control for three months at a time with no breaks.

lyrl, that’s actually not true. While HPV is strongly associated with cervical cancer, not every case of cervical cancer shows up in someone with HPV. Cite: http://www.oncologychannel.com/cervicalcancer/ . Abstaining from sexual activity does lower one’s risk for cervical cancer significantly, but “all cervical cancers” are definitely NOT caused by HPV.