Is motherhood good for your health?
Trouble sleeping. Aches, pains and cramps. Mood swings. Pregnancy can be physically, mentally and emotionally tough on a woman. But you may be surprised to learn there are also health benefits to becoming a mom.
“When a woman learns she is pregnant, she begins visiting her OB/GYN provider regularly and partnering with them to monitor their health,” says Dr. Gregory Woodfill an OB-GYN physician at Aurora Obstetrics & Gynecology in Two Rivers, Wis. “And while there are certainly many difficult aspects to pregnancy and postpartum, there are also physical benefits that aren’t well known.”
Improved health: Pregnancy is an especially important time to focus on exercising and eating healthy. For many, this may be the first time they are regularly seeing a physician and discussing any health concerns they may have. Fortunately, many women continue to prioritize their health after delivery, making healthy lifestyle choices and keeping up with annual gynecological visits and other physician appointments.
Less painful periods: This isn’t the case for all women across the board, particularly not those with underlying reproductive health problems including endometriosis. But some women report experiencing less painful periods after having children once their menstrual cycle returns.
Lower cancer risk: Pregnancy and breastfeeding reduce the number of menstrual cycles a woman has, and consequently, their exposure to hormones that can increase their lifetime risk of breast cancer. The changes in hormones during pregnancy and breastfeeding can also help protect against other reproductive cancers, including endometrial and ovarian cancers.
Decreased risk of other health conditions: Studies have suggested a lower risk of multiple sclerosis in women who have had full-term pregnancies. During pregnancy, a woman’s immune system changes to prevent it from attacking the baby, which may reduce inflammation that can cause nerve damage and ultimately multiple sclerosis. Additionally, research suggests that women who breastfeed may have a lower risk of stroke, heart disease and diabetes.
Want to learn more about your risk for breast cancer? Take a free online quiz here. Or, if you are trying to find a doctor, look here if you live in Illinois or here if you live in Wisconsin.
About the Author
Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator on the content team at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.