The contribution of genetic and environmental factors to the duration of pregnancy

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2014 May;210(5):398-405. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2013.10.001. Epub 2013 Oct 2.


This review describes how improvements in biometric-genetic studies of twin kinships, half-sibships, and cousinships have now demonstrated a sizeable fetal genetic and maternal genetic contribution to the spontaneous onset of labor. This is an important development because previous literature for the most part reports only an influence of the maternal genome. Current estimates of the percent of variation that is attributable to fetal genetic factors range from 11-35%; the range for the maternal genetic contribution is 13-20%. These same studies demonstrate an even larger influence of environmental sources over and above the influence of genetic sources and previously identified environmental risk factors. With these estimates in hand, a major goal for research on pregnancy duration is to identify specific allelic variation and environmental risk to account for this estimated genetic and environmental variation. A review of the current literature can serve as a guide for future research efforts.

Keywords: duration of pregnancy; environment; gene; genetic epidemiology; gestational age at birth; preterm birth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Environment
  • Female
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Gestational Age*
  • Humans
  • Labor Onset / genetics
  • Labor Onset / physiology*
  • Molecular Epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy Outcome / genetics
  • Premature Birth / epidemiology*
  • Premature Birth / genetics
  • Premature Birth / physiopathology*
  • Risk Factors