Women who were born prematurely are more at risk of having a pre-term baby, a new study has revealed.
The University of Aberdeen study found that a mother-to-be in this situation - or who had a sibling who was born prematurely - would be almost two-thirds (60%) more likely to have a premature baby in her first pregnancy.
In subsequent pregnancies she would be 50% more likely to have a pre-term birth.
The findings are based on data taken from mothers and their daughters who gave birth in Aberdeen between September 1948 and March 2008.
Researchers used data from the maternity records of 22,343 mother-daughter pairs to explore the possibility of a genetic cause for spontaneous pre-term birth, which is a leading cause of death in newborns and can lead to long-term problems such as cerebral palsy.
They said more research was now needed to identify whether there are genes which cause the condition.
Dr Sohinee Bhattacharya, lecturer in Obstetric Epidemiology at the University of Aberdeen, led the study.
She said: “Women born pre-term or with siblings delivered in a similar manner have an increased risk of spontaneous pre-term delivery in their own pregnancies.
“Pre-term birth is the leading cause of death and long-term ill- health in babies and children in the developed world. Attempts to predict and prevent spontaneous pre-term births are compromised by gaps in our understanding of what causes the condition.
“Accurate prediction of risk would also help in planning appropriate antenatal care in women deemed to be at high risk.
“Our research supports a genetic predisposition to pre-term birth. Further research should focus on the identification of candidate genes for the condition.”
Published in the American journal Obstetrics and Gynaecology, the study was funded by the American charity March of Dimes.