Researchers find ways to determine the risk of serious problems in pregnancy in older women

on 01 November 2021

Researchers have found new ways of determining the risk of stillbirth, giving birth prematurely or giving birth to very small babies in older pregnant women.

The Manchester Advanced Maternal Age Study (MAMAS) was conducted by researchers at the Tommy’s Stillbirth Centre at the University of Manchester, with funding from Tommy’s charity.

Researchers collected data from 158 mothers in their 20s, 212 in their 30s, and 157 in their 40s across six UK hospitals between March 2012 and October 2014.

Scientists and research midwives at St Mary’s Hospital used this data to compare demographic and medical data with blood samples taken at 28 and 36 weeks of pregnancy.

The blood samples were then matched from older and younger mothers with similar characteristics to look at the impact of their ages, as well as comparing the samples from older mothers with different pregnancy outcomes.

From these samples, it was found that levels of placental growth factor, a protein naturally produced in the placenta when it’s working well, and antioxidant capacity, that shows whether the cells in the placenta are degenerating or inflamed, could help predict pregnancy risks in women ages 35 and over.

From the research, it showed placental growth factor can predict a negative pregnancy outcome with 74% accuracy and antioxidant capacity had an accuracy of 69%.

Lead Author of the study, Professor Alex Heazell, said: “Mothers aged 35 years or over are increasingly common in many countries, and unfortunately having a baby later in life has long been associated with higher pregnancy risks.

“We already know the changes in oxidative stress and inflammation we saw in this study are associated with many pregnancy complications – but for the first time here, we found they were also present in older mothers, which could be damaging the placenta and might explain why older mothers face these higher risks.

“If we measure these biomarkers in the placenta, along with demographic information and clinical variables that we already know affect pregnancy risk, that could give us a better way of predicting someone’s individual risk of an adverse pregnancy outcome at an older age.”

The research was published in the BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth Journal.

Source: Select Science