Deciding to start a family later in life could be influenced by more than just the age of your eggs – a mother’s womb may also have a part to play

Increased risk of pregnancy complications for older mothers might be linked to poor placenta growth, suggests a new study in mice.

This work, led by Dr Myriam Hemberger at the Babraham Institute and the Centre for Trophoblast Research in Cambridge, UK, is one of the first to look at the effects of age on mouse womb health and it is expected to lead to new research into human pregnancies.

Pregnancy complication risks increase with age

A woman in her late 30s is twice as likely as a younger woman to have a stillbirth, she is also 20% more prone to giving birth prematurely and more likely to experience conditions such as pre-eclampsia.

Many of these effects have been linked to the deteriorating quality of ageing egg cells. Yet, this new research reveals that older wombs also have more trouble adapting to pregnancy.

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A woman in her late 30s is twice as likely as a younger woman to have a stillbirth, she is also 20% more prone to giving birth prematurely

Older wombs less able to support the growth of a placenta

By examining first pregnancies in aged mice, the team showed that, for mice as for humans, the risk of complications increases with age.

Closer examination revealed that the wombs of older mothers are less able to support the growth of a placenta, meaning the developing young have poor blood supply, which slows their growth and can cause birth defects.

The co-first authors were Ms Laura Woods and Dr Vicente Perez-Garcia.

“We wanted to enhance our understanding of the increased risks of pregnancy in older mothers,” says co-first author Laura Woods, “When we compared mice who have their first litter in middle age to their younger counterparts, we found that the lining of the uterus does not respond as well to pregnancy hormones and this delays placenta formation. By identifying the key pathways affected by age in mice we have a better idea of what to look for in humans.”

Source: Babraham Institute via www.sciencedaily.com