Risk of stillbirth linked to father’s family history, study suggests

The likelihood of suffering from a stillbirth could be due to genetics, especially from the father’s side, new research suggests.

A study has found that the risk of stillbirth can be passed down through generations, and that the odds of a couple losing a baby to stillbirth are higher when there is a family history from the father’s side.

The research, carried out by experts at the University of Utah Health, US, looked at 9,404 stillbirth cases and 18,808 live birth control cases between 1978 and 2019.

Researchers suspected a genetic cause of stillbirth may exist after they found that 390 families had an excess number of stillbirths across multiple generations.

Comparing the data between families who had suffered stillbirth incidences with those who had not, they found that those with a history of stillbirth in their family had an increased risk.

Significantly, the analysis showed that the risk of stillbirth was passed down through the men of the family.

In the UK, one in every 250 pregnancies end in stillbirth – eight babies every day, according to pregnancy and baby loss charity Tommy’s.

The risk increases if the mother has gestational hypertension, preeclampsia, or diabetes. However, around 60 per cent of stillbirths are unexplained.

Experts said the findings could change how medical professionals identify those at risk of stillbirth.

Dr Tsegaselassie Workalemahu, a leader author of the study, said it was an important step towards identifying specific genes that contribute to stillbirths, paving the way for better diagnosis and prevention.

Workalemahu commented: “We were able to evaluate multigenerational trends in fetal death as well as maternal and paternal lineages to increase our ability to detect a familial aggregation of stillbirth.

“Studying pregnancy provides the opportunity to improve the health of future generations.”

If you have been affected by pregnancy loss and need support or advice, you can call Tommy’s for free on 0800 014 7800 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm).