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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Reproductive suppression, birth defects, and periviable birth.

  • Author(s): Catalano, Ralph
  • Bruckner, Tim A
  • Karasek, Deborah
  • Yang, Wei
  • Shaw, Gary M
  • et al.

Published Web Location Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

We argue that reproductive suppression has clinical implications beyond its contribution to the burden of spontaneous abortion. We theorize that the incidence of births before the 28th week of gestation, which contribute disproportionately to infant morbidity and mortality, varies over time in part due to reproductive suppression in the form of selection in utero. We further theorize that the prevalence of structural birth defects among survivors to birth from conception cohorts gauges selection in utero. We based these theories on literature positing that natural selection conserved mechanisms that spontaneously abort "risky" pregnancies including those otherwise likely to yield infants with structural birth defects or small-for-gestational age males. We test our theory using high-quality birth defect surveillance data. We identify 479,885 male infants exposed to strong selection defined as membership in conception cohorts ranked in the lowest quartile of odds of a birth defect among live-born females. We estimate the risk of periviable birth among these infants as a function of selective pressure as well as of mother's race/ethnicity and age. We find that male infants from exposed conception cohorts exhibited 10% lower odds of periviable birth than males from other conception cohorts. Our findings support the argument that selection in utero has implications beyond its contribution to the burden of spontaneous abortion.

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