The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mummy: Yummy or yucky

London, Aug. 17: ‘Make-up' That’s just papering over the cracks for me, these days,” complains Juliet. She is 43 but says people always assume she’s over 50. She is the mother of three children aged seven, nine and 11 ' and, she feels, it’s taken its toll.

In the post-Sex and the City world, where childlessness is common and more socially acceptable, it’s easy to see why some who do decide to have children might feel prematurely aged. While motherhood lessens the risk of some women’s diseases and may, long term, be good for the soul, is it also true that having children makes you age more quickly'

That there are permanent consequences of pregnancy and birth is indisputable. Stretch marks fade but don’t disappear. Varicose veins are more likely with each baby and breasts head south, never to return. Not very yummy mummy. But the perception that having children turns a woman to blubber is false.

A study of more than 2,500 women by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, USA, found that the typical adult woman gained eight to 10 pounds during any given decade ' only three pounds of which were attributable to pregnancy.

Psychologically, having a child is ageing because you are immediately and irrevocably shunted up a generation, but it is also life-affirming.

“Psychiatrists say that until you have a child, until you have looked after someone who cannot look after herself, you are not an adult,” says Sheila Rossan, a psychiatrist.

But many childless women disagree. “All those mothers who say childrearing has destroyed their looks, I’d say the same about my career,” protests Meg, 45, one of two childless among five sisters.

“I carry the can for the mothers who have to dash off at 4.30 pm to pick up the kids. I’m the one at the late functions, drinking too much, four nights a week. It adds wrinkles and waistline as fast as a baby, let me tell you.

“Also, my childless sister had breast cancer at 50, and it’s a worry that I’m at risk because I haven’t had children.”

Meg’s late-night wrinkles theory is not merely an excuse. Dermatologist Dr Benedetta Brazzini says: “Mothers may look more tired when their children are young, but the effect is temporary. They often lead healthier lives than their childless contemporaries, drinking and smoking less.”

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