“You will give birth – it will pass”: Can the absence of children be harmful to health

ANSWERS TO MOST OF THE QUESTIONS THAT HAVE ARE EXCITING TO US, we are all used to searching online. In this series of articles, we ask just such questions – burning, unexpected or common – to professionals in a variety of fields. 

Many of us have heard the phrase “give birth and everything will pass,” and “everything” could mean a headache, and inflammation on the skin, and painful menstruation. Let’s omit the inability of friends and relatives to be delicate and not interfere with someone else’s personal life. But is there a healthy grain in such recommendations? Can pregnancy and childbirth really reduce the risks of future diseases or eliminate the manifestations of existing ones? We asked these questions to an expert.

Olga Terekhina

doctor – obstetrician-gynecologist of the Atlas Medical Center, Candidate of Medical Sciences

You can often hear that women who have given birth are healthier – in some cases this may be true. But the point is not in some magical effect of pregnancy, but in the fact that a woman is preparing for a planned pregnancy. She goes through medical checks, eliminates all bad habits (primarily alcohol and smoking), normalizes weight, starts eating right and generally leads a healthy lifestyle – and all this has a powerful positive effect on health in general. Visiting doctors of different specialties as part of examinations is also useful: sometimes it helps to identify serious illnesses in the early stages. Of course, these are not happy finds, but they have rather a positive effect: the earlier a disease is detected, the easier it is to cure it.

True, there are some diseases and conditions that pregnancy can have a positive effect on. At the same time, pregnancy, of course, cannot be considered as a means of healing or a cure for all diseases. Yes, in medical practice there are episodes when symptoms of certain diseases disappear during pregnancy. For example, changes in estrogen levels in the body can help stop migraine attacks or reduce their frequency: during pregnancy, the hormone progesterone is produced, and when it prevails over estrogens, migraines can disappear.

Pregnancy cannot be considered a cure, but it happens that during it the symptoms of certain diseases disappear.

Also, a pregnant woman can say goodbye to endometriosis. In this disease, the cells of the endometrium – the inner layer of the wall of the uterus – grow beyond its limits, and the overgrown areas undergo all the changes characteristic of the endometrium during the menstrual cycle. Since the menstrual cycle stops during pregnancy and breastfeeding, the unpleasant symptoms of endometriosis stop. In patients under twenty-seven years of age, improvements can be observed after a period of breastfeeding.

The relationship between pregnancy and the risks of various malignant tumors has not yet been fully understood, but interesting data are emerging. For example, in some studies, full-term pregnancy was associated with a reduced risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer, and women who gave birth to more than one child were even less likely to have these diseases. Also, according to statistics , women who have given birth before the age of twenty-five and breastfeed two or three children are less susceptible to breast cancer than others. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the development of the mammary glands is favorably influenced by the performance of their direct biological function.   

Despite the existence of a number of diseases, the risk of which pregnancy can reduce (or alleviate the course), it would be a mistake to say that it is pregnancy that gives a woman stronger and longer health. Every woman’s health is a unique individual system that is influenced by genetics, comorbidities and lifestyle characteristics.

It must be remembered that pregnancy is a strong stress for the body, and in some cases it can have a strong negative effect on health.

Moreover, it must be remembered that pregnancy itself is a strong stress for the body, and in some cases, on the contrary, it can have a strong negative effect on health. It is very important to consider the possibility of such an influence during pregnancy, for example, after thirty-five years. At this age, pregnancy is accompanied by an increase in a number of risks; the level of risk is also associated with heredity and predisposition to certain diseases. If there were early menopause, oncological diseases of the genital organs, diabetes mellitus, problems with blood pressure, and other chronic diseases in the family along the female line, then it is safer to give birth within the so-called optimal reproductive age – from about twenty to thirty-four years. 

Sometimes doctors generally do not recommend pregnancy and childbirth or suggest postponing them due to some serious pathologies. As a rule, these are oncological diseases requiring radical intervention, diseases of the cardiovascular system, kidneys, blood, and musculoskeletal system. In case of a successful timely decision, childbirth is possible in the future that is safe for the health of both the mother and the child. 

Be that as it may, even for those diseases, the risk of which is reduced in those who have given birth compared to women who have not given birth, no one gives guarantees, and it would be strange to give birth to a child, focusing only on the statistical risks to their own health. The emergence of a new life is a great responsibility; a child is a person who will need to be raised, nurtured and loved, and, perhaps, it is better to plan a family based on these considerations, and not because pregnancy can cure your migraine.

local_offerevent_note September 16, 2021

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