Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Children of mothers over 40 'are healthier and more intelligent and less likely to have accidents'

As an unpublished paper this is hard to evaluate but the picture of the children given below is typical of high IQ individuals.  The authors claim to have controlled for social class but did that include maternal and paternal IQ?  I doubt it.  High IQ mothers are more likely to postpone childbirth so I think we are just looking at an effect of genetically transmitted IQ here

They might be harder to catch – and no doubt leave their mothers more exhausted – but children born to mums over 40 are healthier and brighter than those of younger women.  The offspring of older women are less likely to have accidents or need hospital care and more likely to have been vaccinated early, a study found.

They will also develop a broader vocabulary from a young age and achieve higher scores in IQ tests in a range of measures up to the age of five.

The research, to be presented today at The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health conference in Glasgow, is a rare piece of good news for the rising number of women who are delaying motherhood.

Previous studies have highlighted the growing infertility rates for older women and the greater risk of them developing diabetes and pre-eclampsia.

But the latest research appears  to show gains for older mothers once they have given birth, possibly due to their greater experience  and maturity.  The number of mothers who gave birth over the age of 40 increased from 15,000 in 2000 to 27,000 in 2010.

Researchers at the Institute of Child Health, University College London and Birkbeck College, London, said their findings showed older mothers can make better parents.

Dr Alastair Sutcliffe, who worked on the study, said negative publicity surrounding the rise of older mothers was based on the physical risks of pregnancy and childbirth.  He said: ‘We have clear evidence that there are more desirable outcomes for children of older mothers compared with younger ages. We can reassure these older women that their children are probably better off.’

The Wellcome Foundation-funded study looked at 1,100 children born to women aged 40 and over, compared with 38,000 children born to younger women in Britain. The children’s ages ranged from nine months to five years.

Children of older mothers were less likely to be in accidents or need hospital admission, and were no more at risk of obesity.

Dr Sutcliffe said older mothers might be more risk-averse, possibly because they were less active and unable to run after their children, but they may also be better at spotting and avoiding potentially risky situations.

The research also checked a number of outcomes linked to parenting skills, including naming vocabulary, picture and shapes identification and developmental IQ using established British assessment scales.

The findings showed greater ability among children born to older mothers once social class was taken into account.

Previous research found three times more children born to older mothers got five GCSEs compared with those born to younger women.

Dr Sutcliffe said: ‘We found a continuum which showed a link between the older ages of mothers and better outcomes. It was the effect of age per se.

‘The big question is why. Older mothers appear to have good parenting skills, they may be less impulsive, calmer and have more life experience that better equips them for the role. More women are giving birth at older ages, this isn’t going to go away, they are deferring motherhood for many reasons.

‘The evidence suggests that when the enormous difficulties of pregnancy and birth are over, they can make better mothers,’ he added.


Middle-aged women 'needlessly denied HRT over breast cancer link'

  I was critical of this study from the beginning.  It stressed risk for a tiny minority of women to the exclusion of the benefits for virtually all women.  If we were all as risk-averse as that we would never get out of bed  --  JR

Millions of middle-aged women were needlessly denied hormone replacement therapy because a landmark report which found it raised the risk of breast cancer was exaggerated, the study's author's have admitted.

Ten years after the publication of the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) study, two academics who worked on it now say the risks of HRT were overblown while the benefits to middle-aged women were overlooked.

The initial research concluded that use of combined HRT - progesterone plus oestrogen - increased the risk of breast cancer by 26 per cent. The following year a separate British investigation, the Million Women Study, found it doubled the risk.

Use of HRT subsequently plummeted, with women frightened to take it and doctors reluctant to prescribe it. In England, the number taking it is thought to have fallen from a peak of about 1.5 million to less than half that.

Yet now two of the prinicipal investigators on the WHI study - which mainly involved women over 60 - say the results were " wrongly generalised" to apply to all post-menopausal women.

The original WHI study included 16,608 women aged 50 to 79, whose average age was 63. It found that use of combined HRT increased the risk of breast cancer by 26 per cent.

But subsequent research has younger women - those under 60 or within 10 years of menopause - tend to react differently, and for most of them the benefits outweigh the risks.

For this group benefits can include reduced risk of bowel cancer, bone fracture, coronary heart disease and a reduced overall death rate, research has found.

Dr Bob Langer, who was the prinicipal investigator on the WHI at the University of California, San Diego, in 2002, said: "Overgeneralizing the results from the women who were - on average - 12 years past menopause to all postmenopausal women has led to needless suffering and lost opportunities for many.

"Sadly, one of the lessons from the WHI is that starting hormone therapy 10 years or more after menopause may not be a good idea, so the women who were scared away by the WHI over this past decade may have lost the opportunity to obtain the potential benefits."

He continued: "Information that has emerged over the last decade, shows that for most women starting treatment near the menopause, the benefits outweigh the risks, not just for relief of hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness, but also for reducing the risks of heart disease and fractures."

Professor JoAnn (corr) Manson of Harvard Medical School, another of the principal investigators, said the WHI was still important because it "clarified that, for older women at high risk of cardiovascular disease, the risks of hormone therapy far outweighed the benefits". But she said each woman had to be treated as an individual.

Writing in the Climacteric, the Journal of Adult Women's Health & Medicine, they said one of the key problems of the original study was that women in their 50s were "under-represented". Seventy per cent of participants were over 60.

Writing elsewhere in the journal, other academics point out that the 26 per cent relative increase only translates to eight additional cases of breast cancer per year 10,000 women receiving it.

The Million Women Study - which concluded 2,000 breast cancer cases were caused by HRT in Britain annually - has also come in for criticism, with some experts describing it as "unreliable" due to its design, despite its size.

However, debate on exactly how or how much HRT causes breast cancer rages on, and many of those involved in both studies still say they produced valid results.

Sarah Williams, from Cancer Research UK, said: "This review highlights how important it is to look at each woman’s individual circumstances when considering HRT."

Eluned Hughes, of the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: "We do know that taking HRT can increase your risk of developing breast cancer, however, there is on-going confusion and differing opinion around the extent of this increased risk.

"It is therefore vital that women have access to clear, accurate and balanced information outlining the benefits and limitations of taking HRT which will allow them to make an informed choice about their treatment. If women do decide to take HRT, they should be closely monitored and reviewed at least once a year.”


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