Adverse pregnancy outcomes may be more frequent among sibs of individuals with neural tube defects (NTDs), and transmission of risk in families with an NTD may be more frequent among maternal relatives. In a study designed to evaluate matrilineal risk for NTDs, we compared adverse pregnancy outcomes among maternal and paternal first cousin pregnancies. Pregnancy histories were obtained by interview with 288 uncles and aunts (parents of the first cousin pregnancies) in 48 Irish NTD families. We analyzed pregnancy outcomes (preterm deliveries, stillbirths, and miscarriages) among 1,033 singleton first cousin pregnancies and compared risk among maternal versus paternal relatives. Maternal first cousin pregnancies were more likely to end adversely when compared to paternal first cousin pregnancies (17.4% vs. 11.7%, P = 0.01). In a logistic regression analysis of pregnancies unaffected by birth defects, maternal line remained independently associated with adverse outcomes (odds ratio (OR) = 1.55, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.06, 2.27) after controlling for NTD type, maternal age, maternal smoking during pregnancy, first cousin pregnancy's year of birth. The excess risk with maternal line related mainly to spina bifida occulta families (OR = 42.4; CI 2.64, 681; P = 0.008); risk in open spina bifida families was 1.24 (CI 0.82, 1.87; P = 0.3). These results support the hypothesis of excess risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes among maternal relatives in NTD families. Further work is needed, epidemiological as well as clinical and molecular, not only to confirm these findings, but also to define the underlying biological mechanisms linking adverse reproductive outcomes, excess maternal risk and occurrence of NTDs.
(c) 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.