Fertility and pregnancy

Genetic link to premature births found

Genetic link to premature births found Large UK study

Women born prematurely, or who have brothers or sisters who were born too early are more at risk of having a pre-term baby, experts say.

UK researchers found that a woman who had been born prematurely was 60 per cent more likely to have a premature baby during her first pregnancy, and 50 per cent more likely to have a pre-term birth in future pregnancies.

The findings are based on data taken from mothers and their daughters who gave birth in Aberdeen between September 1948 and March 2008.

The researchers from the University of Aberdeen, analysed data from the maternity records of 22,343 mother-daughter pairs to explore the possibility of a genetic cause for spontaneous pre-term birth, a leading cause of death in newborns which can lead to long term problems such as cerebral palsy.

Dr Sohinee Bhattacharya, lecturer in Obstetric Epidemiology who led the study said: “Women born preterm or with siblings delivered in a similar manner have an increased risk of spontaneous preterm delivery in their own pregnancies.

“Preterm birth is the leading cause of death and long-term ill health in babies and children in the developed world. Attempts to predict and prevent spontaneous preterm births are compromised by gaps in our understanding of what causes the condition.

“Accurate prediction of risk would also help in planning appropriate antenatal care in women deemed to be at high risk.

“Our research supports a genetic predisposition to preterm birth. Further research should focus on the identification of candidate genes for the condition.”

This article was published on Tue 25 May 2010

Image © Melissa Schalke - Fotolia.com

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