SYDNEY, April 13, 2012 ( – Women can expect to live longer with each child they bear, a pattern especially noticeable for those with many children, according to Australian researchers, who nonetheless said that women shouldn’t have too many children because large families are bad for the environment.

The Sydney Morning Herald on Friday reported the results of a study by researchers at the University of New South Wales, which analyzed 1,200 women over the age of 60 since 1988.

Women with six or more children were found to be 40 percent less likely to die during the 16-year follow-up period than women with no children, an expectancy that increased predictably with each child they bore. Researchers said that, although it was not known exactly why children increased life expectancy, the results corresponded to the findings of studies in other countries as well.


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But associate professor Leon Simmons dissuaded couples from having more children based on the results, saying large families are bad for the environment.

‘‘I’m not advocating for you to have six or 14 kids, but it does seem having a few children is good for survival,” he said.

The study also found that men with more children were less likely to die earlier, although the link was not as clear as with women.

Scientists in recent decades have shed light on the healing properties of pregnancy, particularly fetal cell microchimerism, a phenomenon that has been shown to provide unique health benefits to a mother thanks to her unborn child.

In a book on pregnancy science released last year, science writer Jena Pinctott outlined how fetal cells have been shown to penetrate a mother’s body, including stem cells that migrate to the mother’s injuries to spur healing, in a mechanism that strongly suggests a baby’s own cells “repair and rejuvenate moms.” The young cells are believed to stay with a mother for the rest of her life.

For example, a baby’s fetal cells show up significantly more often in a mother’s healthy breast tissue and less often in a woman who has breast cancer, according to numbers cited by Pinkott.

In a 2006 interview, genetics specialist Dr. Kirby Johnson of Tufts Medical Center in Boston recalled one woman with a diseased liver, whose biopsy revealed “sheets of cells” from the children of her five pregnancies – two of them procured abortions – that had congregated near the damaged liver tissue.