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Women are NO more likely to have a stillbirth because their mother may have had one

Women are NO more likely to have a stillbirth just because their mother may have endured the heartbreak of one, scientists prove

  • Researchers said women may try and find a reason for their stillbirth
  • Previously evidence has suggested placental dysfunction could be inherited
  • After studying 26,000 pairs of mothers and daughters, no link was found

Women are no more likely to have a stillbirth because their mother may have endured one, scientists have proven.

Researchers hope their findings will offer support to devastated women who question why they had a stillbirth. 

Several factors have been confirmed as a cause, including pre-eclampsia and placental complications.

But this is the first study to investigate the truth behind a genetic link between mother and daughter.

Women are no more likely to have a stillbirth because their mother may have endured one, scientists at The University of Aberdeen find 

It sought to investigate previous evidence that suggests placental dysfunction, which includes preeclampsia, is inherited.  

The University of Aberdeen examined data from more than 26,000 pairs of mothers and daughters in the Scottish city. 

The team of researchers found 384 daughters had a history of one or more stillbirth, with 26,404 having only live births. 

No statistically significant link between a mothers’ history of stillbirth or miscarriage and stillbirth in daughters was discovered.

Dr Andrea Woolner was the lead author of the study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.  

‘From our analyses, there does not appear to be an increased risk of stillbirth in daughters whose mothers had a history of stillbirth or miscarriage’ he said.

‘To our knowledge, this is the first observational study to investigate stillbirth risk transmitted from mother to daughter.’

A stillbirth occurs when a baby is born deceased after 24 weeks of pregnancy. It is classed as a miscarriage if it happens before that mark.  

There are more than 3,200 stillbirths every year in the UK, and one in every 225 births ends in a stillbirth.

In the US, 23,000 babies were stillborn in 2013, which equates to around 5.96 per 1,000 total births.

Several risk factors have been identified as being responsible, but many cases of stillbirth remain unexplained.

For example, the study found that daughters with a stillbirth were significantly more likely to be socioeconomically deprived and smokers.

The authors wrote: ‘Parents often look for an explanation for this catastrophic life event and are willing to make lifestyle changes to try to improve the outcome of future pregnancies. 

‘Stillbirth and miscarriage are obviously devastating for the parents and whilst many aspects remain unexplained, it is hoped research such as this can help us understand more and feed into supportive advice that can be provided to couples.’


A large proportion of stillbirths happen in otherwise healthy babies, and the reason often can’t be explained. But there are some causes that are known about.

  • Complications with the placenta

Many stillbirths are linked to complications with the placenta. The placenta is the organ that links the baby’s blood supply to the mother’s and nourishes the baby in the womb. If there have been problems with the placenta, stillborn babies are usually born perfectly formed, although often small.

  • bleeding (haemorrhage) before or during labour
  • placental abruption – where the placenta separates from the womb before the baby is born (there may be bleeding or abdominal pain) 
  • pre-eclampsia – a condition that causes high blood pressure in the mother a problem with the umbilical cord, which attaches the placenta to the baby’s tummy button – the cord can slip down through the entrance of the womb before the baby is born (cord prolapse) or can be wrapped around the baby and become knotted 
  • intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP) or obstetric cholestasis – a liver disorder associated with severe itching during pregnancy 
  • a genetic physical defect in the baby pre-existing diabetes 
  • an infection in the mother that also affects the baby 

There are also a number of things that may increase your risk of having a stillborn baby, including:

  • having twins or a multiple pregnancy
  • having a baby who doesn’t grow as they should in the womb 
  • being over 35 years of age smoking, drinking alcohol or misusing drugs while pregnant 
  • being obese – having a body mass index above 30
  • having a pre-existing physical health condition, such as epilepsy 

Source: NHS