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Maternal and Paternal Influences on Length of Pregnancy

Lie, Rolv T. PhD; Wilcox, Allen J. MD, PhD; Skjærven, Rolv PhD

doi: 10.1097/01.AOG.0000206797.52832.36
Original Research: Lead Article

OBJECTIVE: Biological evidence suggests that both mother and fetus are involved in triggering a normal delivery. A tendency of a child to have a gestational age at birth similar to the father’s could represent the effect of genes passed from the father to the fetus. Similar tendencies between mother and child could represent maternal genes passed to the fetus, as well as genes to the mother received from the grandmother that affect a woman’s capacity to carry a pregnancy.

METHODS: The Medical Birth Registry of Norway contains data on all births in Norway from 1967 onward. We identified 77,452 pairs of boys and girls born at term who later became parents and linked their birth data to the birth records for their first child.

RESULTS: Gestational age of the child at birth increased on average 0.58 days for each additional week in the father’s gestational age (95% confidence interval 0.48–0.67) and 1.22 days for each additional week in the mother’s gestational age (1.21–1.32). Gestational age was, however, 0.65 days reduced for each additional kilogram in the father’s birth weight, presumably due to more rapid growth of the fetus triggering delivery.

CONCLUSION: Initiation of delivery has a fetal component that is heritable (passed from father and mother to child) and an additional maternal component that is also heritable. In addition, a more rapid rate of fetal growth appears to trigger delivery at earlier gestation.


Generational data from Norway indicate that inherited factors in both mother and father determine time of delivery.

From the 1Medical Birth Registry of Norway, Locus for Registry Based Epidemiology, University of Bergen and Norwegian Institute of Public Health, 2Section for Epidemiology and Medical Statistics, Department of Public Health and Primary Health Care, University of Bergen, Norway; and 3National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Durham, North Carolina.

Corresponding author: Rolv T. Lie, PhD, Section for Epidemiology and Medical Statistics University of Bergen, Kalfarveien 31 N-5018 Bergen, Norway; e-mail:

© 2006 by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.