Genetics point to serious pregnancy complication

New research at the University of Adelaide has revealed a genetic link in pregnant mums - and their male partners - to pre-eclampsia, a life-threatening complication during pregnancy.

Pre-eclampsia involves and fluid retention and can cause damage to the kidneys and liver. About 7% of pregnancies are affected by pre-eclampsia.

In a paper now online in the journal Placenta ahead of print publication, the researchers say they have found a genetic variant involving the AGT2R gene, which may predispose women to pre-eclampsia.

However, the genetic variant is only associated with pre-eclampsia when the pregnant mother is overweight or obese.

"Being able to predict which women are at risk of pre-eclampsia is a very important goal in obstetrics," says Professor Claire Roberts from the University of Adelaide's Robinson Institute.

Professor Roberts, Dr Ang Zhou and Professor Gus Dekker from the Robinson Institute studied data from the SCOPE study, involving more than 2000 women and their partners in Adelaide, Australia and Auckland, New Zealand.

Women who developed pre-eclampsia who were also overweight or obese were twice as likely to carry the AGT2R than the common form of the gene. The of women with pre-eclampsia were also twice as likely to carry the variant gene. Their babies were three times more likely to carry the variant.

"This is a condition that can run in families," Professor Roberts says. "With both the mother and the father passing on their variant genes to their children, this places the child at greater risk of parenting a pre-eclamptic pregnancy."

Professor Roberts says the genetic variant is linked with restricted blood flow to the placenta.

"Impaired blood flow in the is characterized by a 'notching effect' that appears on a at 20 weeks gestation. Uterine artery notching has previously been associated with pre-eclampsia, and this restricted blood flow is due to impaired placental development," Professor Roberts says.

The researchers say the genetic variant has only a subtle effect in women of normal weight, but in overweight and obese women it appears to independently contribute to the risk of pre-eclampsia.

"Understanding this association could help to predict which women are likely to develop pre-eclampsia," Professor Roberts says.

"However, it also helps to reinforce the message that a normal weight prior to pregnancy will lower the risk of serious complications - being overweight or obese increases the risk of complications."

Related Stories

Pre-eclampsia linked to thyroid problems

Nov 18, 2009

Women who develop pre-eclampsia during pregnancy are more likely than other women to have reduced thyroid function (hypothyroidism), finds a study published in BMJ today. It may also put women at a greater risk of thyroi ...

Recommended for you

Vitamin D may not prevent return of vaginosis after all

Oct 29, 2014

(HealthDay)—A new study suggests that high doses of vitamin D may not help prevent the return of bacterial vaginosis (BV). The research was published in the November issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Eating disorders linked to adverse perinatal outcomes

Oct 22, 2014

(HealthDay)—Maternal eating disorders are associated with adverse pregnancy, obstetric, and perinatal health outcomes, according to a study published in the October issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics & ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.