Photo by Camylla Battani on Unsplash

TARTU, Estonia — Occurring in roughly 15 percent of clinical pregnancies, miscarriage is considered the most common complications an expecting mother can face. Now, a new study reports newly discovered connections between maternal genes and miscarriage risk.

Researchers from the Estonian Genome Center of the University of Tartu in Estonia conducted the study.

Physicians have been aware that miscarriage risk increases the older a woman becomes for quite some time. The reasons behind up to two-thirds of miscarriages however, are still unclear.

When it comes to the role of genes in determining a woman’s risk of miscarriage, earlier studies had found a loose connection of sorts between single maternal genetic variants and repeating miscarriages. However, those prior projects usually only included a small number of participants and ultimately yielded inconclusive results.

“Our study involved a large number of women whose gene variants were examined throughout the genome to find risk factors for sporadic or consecutive miscarriages,” explains first study author Triin Laisk, a Senior Research Fellow at the Estonian Genome Center, in a media release.

Which conditions can contribute to a miscarriage?

This new work performed in Europe shows that miscarriages are at least partially driven by genetic variations possibly caused by placental biology. Several seemingly unrelated health outcomes such as irritable bowel syndrome, depression, and asthma show a connection to miscarriages. Factors like smoking, general mental health, and overall well-being also seem to have a link in some way to miscarriages.

“Although previous studies have shown that miscarriage increases the risk of depression and cardiovascular diseases, the underlying reasons are unknown. However, genetic research will help us better understand what could be behind such associations,” Laisk says.

While this work only focused on the influence of maternal genes, study authors want to see more research in the future accounting for both paternal and fetal genomes.

“Although this study of maternal genetic variation shed some light on the causes of miscarriage, further research is definitely needed. In the future, we could know more about the biology behind a successful pregnancy and also about the long-term impact of miscarriage on overall health,” Laisk comments.

This study is actually just the starting point for a new international project studying these topics for years to come. For this initial round of research, the Estonian team gathered data on 420,000 women living all over the world.

“The results of this study illustrate the utility of large-scale biobank data for understanding this pregnancy complication,” Laisk concludes.

The study is published in Nature Communications.

About John Anderer

Born blue in the face, John has been writing professionally for over a decade and covering the latest scientific research for StudyFinds since 2019. His work has been featured by Business Insider, Eat This Not That!, MSN, Ladders, and Yahoo!

Studies and abstracts can be confusing and awkwardly worded. He prides himself on making such content easy to read, understand, and apply to one’s everyday life.

Our Editorial Process

StudyFinds publishes digestible, agenda-free, transparent research summaries that are intended to inform the reader as well as stir civil, educated debate. We do not agree nor disagree with any of the studies we post, rather, we encourage our readers to debate the veracity of the findings themselves. All articles published on StudyFinds are vetted by our editors prior to publication and include links back to the source or corresponding journal article, if possible.

Our Editorial Team

Steve Fink


Chris Melore


Sophia Naughton

Associate Editor