Understanding factors contributing to variation in ‘biological age’ is essential to understanding variation in susceptibility to disease and functional decline. One factor that could accelerate biological aging in women is reproduction. Pregnancy is characterized by extensive, energetically-costly changes across numerous physiological systems. These ‘costs of reproduction’ may accumulate with each pregnancy, accelerating biological aging. Despite evidence for costs of reproduction using molecular and demographic measures, it is unknown whether parity is linked to commonly-used clinical measures of biological aging. We use data collected between 1999 and 2010 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (n = 4418) to test whether parity (number of live births) predicted four previously-validated composite measures of biological age and system integrity: Levine Method, homeostatic dysregulation, Klemera–Doubal method biological age, and allostatic load. Parity exhibited a U-shaped relationship with accelerated biological aging when controlling for chronological age, lifestyle, health-related, and demographic factors in post-menopausal, but not pre-menopausal, women, with biological age acceleration being lowest among post-menopausal women reporting between three and four live births. Our findings suggest a link between reproductive function and physiological dysregulation, and allude to possible compensatory mechanisms that buffer the effects of reproductive function on physiological dysregulation during a woman’s reproductive lifespan. Future work should continue to investigate links between parity, menopausal status, and biological age using targeted physiological measures and longitudinal studies.
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