September 16, 2005
Genes from both parents can cause pregnancy problem
By Patricia Reaney
LONDON (Reuters) - Genes from both parents can increase the
risk of preeclampsia, a serious complication that occurs in
about 5 percent of pregnancies, doctors said on Friday.
After studying data on 500,000 births, researchers at the
University of Bergen found that the mother and father can pass
on a susceptibility to their children.
"Men and women who were born after preeclamptic pregnancies
contribute to increased risk of preeclampsia in the next
generation," said Professor Rolv Skjaerven, of the department
of public and primary health care.
Dangerously high blood pressure, fluid retention and
protein in the urine are symptoms of preeclampsia. It can lead
to eclampsia, which endangers the lives of both mother and
Eclampsia, in which preeclampsia symptoms worsen and the
patient begins to have seizures, is one of the most common
causes of death for pregnant women in the developing world.
Scientists knew mothers could pass on the risk of the
condition to daughters born after pregnancies affected by it.
But the research, published online by the British Medical
Journal, shows that mothers who are affected by preeclampsia
pass on a higher risk to all their daughters, including those
born following normal pregnancies.
"If a sister or brother has preeclampsia when they were
born, an unaffected sister will have almost the same risk,"
Skjaerven explained in an interview.
He and his team found that daughters of women who had
preeclampsia during pregnancy had more than twice the normal
risk of having the complication. Men born after a preeclampsia
pregnancy had a raised risk of having a daughter who would
suffer from the problem.
Doctors do not know what causes preeclampsia, which can
starve the developing fetus of nutrients. The condition usually
occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy.
It is also more common in first and twin pregnancies.
Treatment of preeclampsia consists of monitoring the mother and
early delivery of the baby, usually by caesarean section.
Dutch scientists have identified a genetic defect that is a
suspected cause of preeclampsia. The defective gene is linked
to an enzyme that clears toxic compounds in the body.