Increased heart problems in male children of older mothers

Heart problems in offspring due to late pregnancy?

Changes in the placenta can cause male offspring from older mothers to develop heart problems later in life.

The University of Cambridge's latest study found that changes in the placenta in older women can make male offspring at increased risk of heart problems. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Scientific Reports".

Poor health of male offspring

Changes in the placenta in older pregnant mothers increase the risk of impaired health in their male offspring. The researchers found this in their study on rats. Both male and female fetuses do not grow that big in older mothers, but there are gender differences in changes in the development and function of the placenta.

Increased risk of heart problems

These changes appear to play a central role in the increased likelihood of heart problems and high blood pressure later in life in male offspring. Human women reach an advanced maternal age from the age of 35. Therefore, the study examined pregnant rats of a relatively comparable age.

Older placenta better for women and worse for men?

In older mothers, the placenta of female fetuses showed positive changes in structure and function, which should maximize the support of fetal growth. In some cases, the placenta even supported the female fetus better than the placenta of a younger mother. However, the changed placenta also means that fetal growth is restricted in male fetuses.

Development of targeted interventions possible?

This new understanding of the function and development of the placenta could contribute to better management of human pregnancies and the development of targeted interventions to improve the longer-term health of children born to older mothers, the research group reports.

Higher risk of complications in late pregnancy

Pregnancy in older mothers is associated with an increased risk of complications in the mother and baby. These include, for example, increased blood pressure in the mother during pregnancy, gestational diabetes, stillbirth and fetal growth restrictions. So far, there has been limited understanding of how the placenta is changed by advanced maternal age.

Women always have children later

Given the ever increasing average age of first pregnancy in women, it is very important to understand how exactly the age of the mother and the sex of the baby interact, both in terms of the course of pregnancy and in relation to the health of the child later in life .

What is the role of the placenta?

The placenta transports nutrients and oxygen from the mother to the fetus, supports fetal development and is the most important protective barrier for the fetus against toxins, bacteria and hormones. The placenta is naturally very dynamic. Their function may change to protect the growing fetus when the conditions for its development become less favorable.

What is the significance of the investigations?

For the current study, the placenta of young (three to four months old) and older pregnant rats (9.5 to ten months old) was examined. The older rats in the study corresponded to people around 35 years old, the researchers explain. According to the researchers, rats are very suitable for such studies because their biology and physiology are similar to humans. However, there remains a degree of uncertainty as to how exactly the same effect would be observed in humans.

Effects of age on the placenta

The study found that advanced maternal age reduced placenta efficiency in both male and female fetuses. Age affects the structure and function of the placenta more strongly in male fetuses, so that the ability to support growth has been reduced.

Changes in the placenta harmed the male offspring

The growth and gene expression in the placenta are influenced in older mothers in a way that is at least partially dependent on gender. The changes in the placenta in male fetuses are generally harmful, the research group summarizes. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Tina Napso, Yin-Po Hung, Sandra T. Davidge, Alison S. Care, Amanda Sferruzzi-Perri: Advanced maternal age compromises fetal growth and induces sex-specific changes in placental phenotype in rats, in Scientific Reports (query: 28.11.2019 ), Scientific Reports

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