Now for the third area from Alison Cameron’s article, “Do children really make us happy? Alison Cameron compares parenthood with a childfree life” from The Sun Herald.  Like the two posts before this one, first you’ll see the quoted content from Cameron’s article.  Check out the third area: Health. 

From the article: One area where parents seem to thrive is in physical health. A 2006 study from London suggested that childless women run of risk of earlier death and poorer health later in life compared to their childbearing sisters.

However, closer examination of the findings shows that motherhood is healthy, but only if you do it at the right time or have the optimum number of children.

Teenage pram-pushers <aka stroller-pusher> , women with five or more children or someone who has two children with less than a 19-month gap between births all face poorer health and a higher risk of death.

Meanwhile, breastfeeding has been found to decrease the risk of breast cancer in a number of studies.

But parenthood is not such great news when it comes to mental health, with 2006 U.S. research showing parents, both male and female, have significantly higher levels of depression than the childless. Post-natal depression (PND) is also a serious risk, with a 2006 Danish study finding women are at particular risk during the first three months after giving birth. It is also emerging that even men or parents who adopt may not escape the pain of PND. But before mothers give up on their mental health, they should be encouraged to learn raising children may actually make women smarter.

In her 2006 book, The Mommy Brain, American writer Katherine Ellison draws on neuroscience research to show that pregnancy and early motherhood improve memory and prepare women for multi-tasking; and that the hormone oxytocin, which is plentiful in  mothers, combats stress and helps with learning.

Ellison found that care for a newborn remaps parts of a woman’s brain and improves her ability to learn new skills, and that the powerful biological urge to defend children helps women become more creative and competitive.

Cameron says on this one —“Winners: Parents.” Mmm. Have to challenge this. The London study suggests that childless women run the risk of earlier death and poorer health in later life. I wonder about the choice factor—do you get the same result if the childless are childless by choice? I also can’t believe that just because you don’t have kids means you are more likely to be less healthy later in life and more likely to die sooner than mothers of 2 babies spaced longer than 19 months apart. Too much goes in to being and staying healthy and motherhood is unlikely the sole predictive variable here. More data required.

Breastfeeding has been shown to decrease the risk of breast cancer, yes. But what if the mom does not breast feed? Does it mean that just because if you don’t have kids you are more likely to die of breast cancer than moms? I have yet to see research to answer this question, but my hypothesis is I think not.

Cameron also suggests that while moms are likely to be depressed, at least motherhood will make them smarter…and depressed.  While the “mommy brain” may impact memory, the ability to multitask, learn new skills, become more creative and competitive, does it mean the “no-mommy brain’s” memory will be worse than a mom’s, or that you will have less ability to multi-task? That you will have less ability to learn new skills? Be creative or competitive? I think not. And if you want to have the benefits of oxytocin, get the prescription.

Think of those you know in their later years–parents and not. Who is healthier? Why? Cameron’s contention that parenthood with specific parameters as the dependent variable for better health and less risk of death is a stretch at best.  What do you think?

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