Tag: pregnancy loss

Synthetic Progestogen in Utero Leads to Doubled Cancer Rate in Offspring

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In utero exposure to a synthetic progestogen used to prevent miscarriage can lead to an increased risk of developing cancer, according to a new study.

The study by researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth Houston) was published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The drug, 17α-hydroxyprogesterone caproate (17-OHPC), is a synthetic progestogen frequently used by women in the 1950s and 1960s, and is still prescribed today to women to help prevent preterm birth. Progesterone helps the uterus grow during pregnancy and prevents early contractions that may lead to miscarriage.

“Children who were born to women who received the drug during pregnancy have double the rate of cancer across their lifetime compared to children born to women who did not take this drug,” said the study’s lead author, Caitlin C. Murphy, PhD, MPH, associate professor in the Department of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences at UTHealth School of Public Health in Houston. “We have seen cancers like colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, thyroid cancer, and many others increasing in people born in and after the 1960s, and no one really knows why.”

Researchers reviewed data from the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan on women who received prenatal care between June 1959 and June 1967, and the California Cancer Registry, which traced cancer in offspring through 2019.

Out of more than 18 751 live births, researchers discovered 1008 cancer diagnoses were made in offspring ages 0 to 58 years. Additionally, a total of 234 offspring were exposed to 17-OHPC during pregnancy. Offspring exposed in utero had cancer detected in adulthood at more than twice the rate of of those unexposed: 65% of cancers occurred in adults younger than 50.

“Our findings suggest taking this drug during pregnancy can disrupt early development, which may increase risk of cancer decades later,” Murphy said “With this drug, we are seeing the effects of a synthetic hormone. Things that happened to us in the womb, or exposures in utero, are important risk factors for developing cancer many decades after we’re born.”

A new randomised trial shows there is no benefit of taking 17-OHPC, and that it does not reduce the risk of preterm birth, according to Murphy.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed in October 2020 that this particular drug be withdrawn from the market.

Source: University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

Miscarriage Should be Recognised as a Bereavement, Argues Psychiatrist

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A miscarriage during the first 6 months of pregnancy should be recognised as a bereavement, rather than illness in UK law, argues psychiatrist Nathan Hodson in correspondence published online in the journal BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health.

Some MPs in the UK government have called for following in the steps of New Zealand’s policy of giving bereavement leave at  any stage of pregnancy loss, though this has been met with opposition.

The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2020 allows for two weeks’ statutory bereavement leave for a stillbirth after 24 weeks and for the loss of a child up to the age of 18 in the UK. In South Africa, the 2002 Basic Conditions of Employment Act allows for six weeks’ maternity leave for pregnancy loss after 28 weeks.

Dr Hodson pointed out that parents in these circumstances are also entitled to take maternity or shared parental leave planned before the stillbirth, giving them weeks or months to recover from their loss.

But those who miscarry before 24 weeks in the UK have no such rights, added to which the miscarriage is regarded as an illness, with entitlement to sick leave. And if this lasts longer than 7 days, a formal sick note from a doctor is required.

“This policy creates an arbitrary cliff edge at 24 weeks,” with few women who miscarry being aware of their employment rights, Dr Hodson insisted.

Presently it is not known how many miscarriages occur in the UK annually nor how much sick leave is taken for them. He acknowledges this could open up private companies to unknown costs for employee miscarriage at any stage.

A single week of statutory bereavement leave when miscarriage occurs after the 12 week scan could reduce these costs. “Miscarriage risk after 12 weeks is less than 1% so this policy would be highly targeted with a less uncertain price tag,” he explained.

And within 2 or 3 years there should be sufficient data from New Zealand to estimate the impact of the policy, which was introduced in March this year. This allows women and partners 3 days of paid leave, irrespective of how long the woman had been pregnant, but excluding abortions.

But in any case, “miscarriage should as far as possible be recognised as bereavement, not sickness, and many parents will need time off work afterwards,” wrote Dr Hodson.

“Leave following first-trimester miscarriage should be prioritised when New Zealand has published data. But whatever approach is taken with regard to early miscarriages, the cliff edge at 24 weeks is a stark injustice demanding remedy.”

Source: EurekAlert!

Foetal Genetics Drive Birth Defects and Pregnancy Loss

Pregnant belly with ultrasound image superimposed. Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

A study by Yale researchers has shown that the genetics of the foetus and placenta drive developmental abnormalities, including those that lead to pregnancy loss and autism.

In the US, a birth defect is diagnosed in about 3% of children born every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Birth defects also occur in most cases of pregnancy loss, and also result in many deaths in the first year of life. The causes are thought to be a complex interplay of environmental and biological factors.

“Mothers often feel that they are responsible for these defects,” explained senior author Dr Harvey Kliman,  Research Scientist at the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Services, Yale School of Medicine. “But it’s not their fault. This new research points to the genetics of these children as being the most important cause.”

Dr Kliman and his team examined placental data for nearly 50 sets of identical and non-identical twins. They discovered identical twins had similar numbers of abnormal cell growths called trophoblast inclusions (TIs), which are markers for a number of developmental abnormalities, while non-identical twins showed a markedly different TI count.

While identical twins share the same DNA, non-identical twins only share half of their DNA. Identical twins were found to often have the same number of TIs or were within one of having the same TI count. Non-identical twins had TI counts that differed by four or five on average.

“This work suggests that developmental abnormalities are much more likely to be due to the genetics of the child, and not the mother’s fault,” Dr Kliman explained.

The findings were reported in the journal Placenta.  

First author Julia Katz, a former Yale undergraduate and now medical student at Hofstra University, provided the inspiration for the study.

Katz and her brother, Jesse, who was born underweight and with several congenital abnormalities, are non-identical twins. “I had a lot of guilt, growing up, about why my twin had certain conditions that I didn’t,” Katz explained. “I think mothers also tend to blame themselves.”

After a lecture,  Katz approached Dr Kliman and asked him what causes babies to be born undersized, a conversation which led to a discussion about developmental abnormalities and Katz’s desire to find out more about her and her twin’s genetics — including looking at her own placental slides from birth.

It also led Dr Kliman, Katz, and co-author Parker Holzer, a graduate student in the Yale Department of Statistics and Data Science, to conduct the new study.

“Julia’s need to resolve this burden is what propelled our study,” Dr Kliman said. “Hopefully, this finding will help many other people, as well.”

“This experience has shown me that if you have a question, ask it,” Katz added. “And if you don’t get an answer, try to answer it yourself.”

Source: News-Medical.Net

Journal information: Katz, J., et al. (2021) Genetics, not the uterine environment, drive the formation of trophoblast inclusions: Insights from a twin study. Placenta. doi.org/10.1016/j.placenta.2021.04.010.