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Am J Epidemiol. 2009 Dec 1;170(11):1358-64. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwp324. Epub 2009 Oct 23.

Maternal contributions to preterm delivery.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology Research, Statens Serum Institut, Artillerivej 5, DK-2300 Copenhagen, Denmark.


Preterm delivery (PTD) is a complex trait with a significant familial component. However, no specific inheritance patterns have been established. The authors examined the contribution of PTDs in both the woman's family and her partner's family to her risk of PTD. The authors linked birth information from Danish national registers with pedigree information from the Danish Family Relations Database for 1,107,124 live singleton deliveries occurring from 1978 to 2004. Risk ratios were estimated comparing women with and without various PTD histories. Women with previous PTDs were at greatly increased risk of recurrent PTD (risk ratio = 5.6, 95% confidence interval: 5.5, 5.8); however, their PTD risk was unaffected by a partner's history of preterm children with other women. PTDs to a woman's mother, full sisters, or maternal half-sisters also increased her PTD risk (risk ratio = 1.6, 95% confidence interval: 1.5, 1.6), whereas PTDs in her paternal half-sisters, the female partners of her male relatives, or members of her partner's family did not affect her PTD risk. Inheritance patterns were similar for all gestational ages from very early through late PTD. The substantial portion of PTD risk explained by effects passed through the female line suggests a role for either imprinting or mitochondrial inheritance.

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