Are pregnancy and parity associated with telomere length? A systematic review

Nourit Houminer-Klepar, Shiran Bord, Elissa Epel, Orna Baron-Epel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Women's reproduction requires increased energy demands, which consequently may lead to cellular damage and aging. Hence, Telomere Length (TL), a biomarker of biological aging and health status may possibly serve as a biomarker of reproductive effort. The aim of this systematic review is to evaluate telomere dynamics throughout pregnancy and the association between parity and TL. Methods: A systematic search was conducted across seven databases including CINAHL, Cochrane, PsycINFO, Proquest, PubMed; Scopus; and Web of Science, using keywords and MeSH descriptors of parity and TL. Predefined inclusion and exclusion criteria were used to screen abstracts and titles. After the removal of duplicates, 3431 articles were included in the primary screening, narrowed to 194 articles included in the full-text screening. Consensus was reached for the 14 studies that were included in the final review, and the Newcastle–Ottawa scale (NOS) was utilized to assess the quality of the selected studies. A mini meta-analysis utilized JASP 0.17.3 software and included 4 applicable studies, comprising a total of 2564 participants to quantitatively assess the estimated effect size of parity on TL. Results: Of the 11 studies reviewed on parity and TL, four demonstrated a negative correlation; one – a positive correlation and six -found no correlation. Studies demonstrating a negative correlation encompassed rigorous methodological practices possibly suggesting having more children is associated with enhanced telomere attrition. Of the four longitudinal studies assessing telomere dynamics throughout pregnancy, most found no change in TL from early pregnancy to postpartum suggesting pregnancy does not affect TL from early pregnancy to early postpartum. The meta-analysis revealed a negative, yet, non-significant effect, of the estimated effect size of parity on TL(ES = -0.009, p = 0.126, CI -0.021, 0.03). Conclusions: Studies assessing pregnancy, parity and TL yielded mixed results, most likely due to the different research methods utilized in each study. Improvements in study design to better understand the short-term effects of pregnancy on TL and the effect of parity on TL over time, include precise definitions of parity, comparisons of different age groups, inclusion of reproductive lifespan and statistically adjusting for potential confounders in the parity and TL relationship.

Original languageEnglish
Article number733
JournalBMC Pregnancy and Childbirth
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, BioMed Central Ltd., part of Springer Nature.


  • Parity
  • Pregnancy
  • Reproduction
  • Reproductive history
  • Telomere
  • Telomere shortening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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