From One Womb to Another

Endometriosis risk not really affected by parents habits while pregnant

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) A mother's habits while pregnant often have consequences for the baby down the road. Tobacco and alcohol use are two common examples of harmful lifestyle behaviors that affect a baby in the womb.

However, a woman's lifestyle while pregnant may not increase the chances their daughters will have endometriosis in the future, or their ability to have kids, a recently published study found.

Still, the exact causes of endometriosis and what may make it worse remain unknown.

"Don't drink while pregnant."

In endometriosis, the lining of the uterus, called the endometrium, grows abnormally into the tissue and organs around it. The problem causes heavy menstrual periods and severe cramping.

Researchers, led by Erin Wolff, MD, head of the Unit on Reproductive Regenerative Medicine at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, tracked what women were exposed to while in utero and how it affected their chances of developing endometriosis.

The study included 473 women having pelvic surgery at a number of clinics in Utah and California between 2007 and 2009. Another 127 women having magnetic resonance images (MRIs) done on their pelvis were also included to compare results.

Before starting the surgery or MRI, participants discussed their mothers' lifestyles and habits while pregnant, including food and alcohol consumption and whether they smoked or were around smoke. Researchers also recorded how far along the mothers were in their pregnancy when the participants were born, as well as their birth size.

After completing all the procedures, researchers diagnosed endometriosis in 41 percent of women having laparoscopy. Among those having an MRI, 11 percent received the diagnosis. About 70 percent of the endometriosis cases were in stage 1 or 2.

Taking maternal vitamins increased daughters’ odds of having the problem 1.27 times compared to mothers who didn't consume vitamins.

Though the odds were small, women who were born underweight or had mothers who smoked while pregnant also had increased odds of developing endometriosis by 1.1 and 1.16 times, respectively.

Mothers who drank caffeine or alcohol or who were around smoke while pregnant had daughters with lower odds of developing endometriosis. Women who were born early also had reduced chances.

"A more deļ¬nitive answer awaits careful measurement of developmental exposures, possibly from the women's mothers themselves, combined with surgical diagnosis of endometriosis," researchers wrote in their report.

The authors did not include adolescents in their study and acknowledged that the participating women may not have completely reported their parents' history, which may limit the results.

The study was published December 3 in the journal Fertility and Sterility. The Intramural Research Program of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Program in Reproductive and Adult Endocrinology supported the study.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 13, 2013
Last Updated:
January 18, 2013