For many women, preeclampsia's origin is mysterious—but now, researchers may know why it develops. The bad news? There's not much you can do about it.
Preeclampsia is a dangerous complication that all pregnant women want to avoid—but if recent research is any indication, one risk factor may be out of your control.
According to a new study published in Nature Genetics, your baby's DNA may influence your risk of developing preeclampsia. Yup, we're with you on this one: This news is neither reassuring nor expected.
The researchers studied genetic makeup from 4,380 babies born to mothers with preeclampsia and compared these findings against genetic information from 300,000 babies born to women who were not affected by the issue. According to their findings, babies born in preeclamptic pregnancies have specific genetic features (particularly elevated levels of a protein called sFlt-12) that may contribute to a mother's odds of developing the condition—which might explain why preeclampsia appears to run in families.
"For many years midwives and obstetricians have known that a woman is more likely to develop preeclampsia if her mother or sister had the disorder. More recently research has shown that the condition also runs in the families of men who father preeclamptic pregnancies," the study's coordinator, Linda Morgan, said, according to the University of Nottingham's news release. "We knew that faulty formation of the placenta is often found in preeclampsia. As it is the baby's genes that produce the placenta we set out to see if we could find a link between the baby's DNA and the condition. We found there were indeed some features in a baby's DNA that can increase the risk of preeclampsia."
This news may scare you, especially if you're in the early part of your pregnancy, but it's not all bad. For one thing, it's important to note that researchers believe about 50 percent of people carry this genetic feature associated with preeclampsia risk—and since only about 5 percent of pregnancies are affected by the issue, it's safe to say baby's DNA alone can't cause preeclampsia. With that being said, your baby's DNA (which comes from both mother and father) may increase a mother's risk of developing the condition.
Our verdict? This research is worth considering—but there's probably no use in putting too much stock into something that's beyond your control. The good news is, the odds are in your favor—and if you're still concerned about preeclampsia, talk with your doctor about your level of risk.