Having a hard time staying pregnant? If you’re having repeated miscarriages, the problem could be a question of timing.

egg timer

Body clock genes could affect women’s ability to have children

Miscarriage is the most common complication of pregnancy. Approximately one in seven clinical pregnancies result in miscarriage, mostly prior to 12 weeks of pregnancy. Furthermore, it’s s estimated that 5% of women experience two clinical miscarriages, and approximately 1% have three or more losses.

A British study from Warwick Medical School and University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) NHS Trust has found that women suffering from recurrent miscarriages may be less able to regulate clock genes in the lining of the uterus.

The researchers examined endometrial cells from uterine linings of healthy women, and also biopsies from women who had sadly suffered from recurrent pregnancy loss, and were able to pinpoint how body clock genes are temporarily switched off in the lining of the womb to allow an embryo to implant. Timing of this event is critical for pregnancy.

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“Infertility affects one in six women across the world, but the area of body clock genes has not been looked at in this detail before,” according to Professor Jan Brosens, Consultant in Reproductive Health at Warwick Medical School and UHCW NHS Trust says. “It’s crucial during pregnancy that mothers and their babies’ embryos are able to synchronize. If this fails to happen, it can cause miscarriage. However, it can also increase the risk of complications in later stages of pregnancy, such as preeclampsia, fetal growth restriction and pre-term birth.”

Night work and shift work could be a factor

It is hoped that by identifying the causes behind recurrent miscarriages, that fertility experts will be able to help more prospective parents than ever before. In particular, it could have major implications for IVF, as the findings suggest that fertility specialists could, in future, target biorhythms in the womb to improve the environment for implanted embryos.

>> 8 ways to manage the wait to take a pregnancy test

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Published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), the study also provides new insights into how night and shift work could affect female fertility.

“We believe our study has huge implications in the understanding of the body clock genes and their effect on female fertility,” says Professor Siobhan Quenby, Consultant Obstetrician at Warwick Medical School and UHCW NHS Trust. “We hope that it will increase worldwide knowledge about possible reasons for infertility and recurrent miscarriages, so that we are able to help families achieve their dream of having children.”

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About: The full paper, 'The Clock Protein Period 2 Synchronizes Mitotic Expansion and Decidual Transformation of Human Endometrial Stromal Cells' was published in the April 2015 edition of the FASEB journal, and is available here

Photo credit(s): Egg timer photo thanks to Ian Barbour

Original publication date: April 2, 2015

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