Stress during pregnancy 'can be passed down'

5 August 2014

Stress during pregnancy can be passed down through generations, new research from the University of Lethbridge in Canada suggests.

As preterm birth is one of the leading causes of neonatal death and can lead to health problems later in life, the experts looked at the length of pregnancies in rats because in general there is very little variation between them.

In tests, a generation of subjects were subjected to stress late in pregnancy, with the following two generations then split into two groups that were either stressed or not stressed.

The daughters of stressed test subjects had shorter pregnancies than the daughters of those who had not been, while the grand-daughters of stressed rats had shorter pregnancies, even if their mothers had not been stressed.

As well as shorter pregnancies, the subjects whose grandmothers and mothers experienced stress displayed higher glucose levels.

Gerlinde Metz, senior author of the article, said: "We have now shown that maternal stress can generate miRNA modifications with effects across several generations. I think this is an interesting feature of our manuscript."

Posted by Edward Bartel

 

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