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Oxygen clue in miscarriage research

10 July 2000
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 066

Some unexplained miscarriages could be caused by a surge in oxygen levels around the third month of pregnancy. Researchers at University College London and Cambridge University have discovered that during this time, the level of oxygen in the placenta increases threefold. Combined with other factors, this sudden change may be enough to cause a miscarriage, says team member Dr Graham Burton. The findings were presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology annual meeting in Bologna, and reported in New Scientist last week.

The scientists placed tiny monitors in the placentas of 30 women, and found that the amount of oxygen reaching the developing fetus shoots up between the 8th and 15th weeks of pregnancy. 'This clearly shows there are two distinct phases in pregnancy', said Burton. Most embryologists previously believed that oxygen levels rise gently throughout pregnancy.

Dr Eric Jauniaux, of University College, said that taking antioxidant vitamins in early pregnancy to 'mop up' free radicals (harmful chemical by-products formed by oxygen) could help protect the fetus. Obstetrician Lesley Regan, of Imperial College London, agrees there should now be trials involving antioxidants, but warns: 'There's no information in the literature to indicate that vitamins C and E [antioxidant vitamins] are safe in pregnancy.'

Life or death
New Scientist |  8 July 2000
Shedding new light on mystery of miscarriage
Daily Mail |  6 July 2000
Vitamin aid to pregnancies
The Daily Telegraph |  6 July 2000
Vitamins 'may help unborn babies'
The Times |  6 July 2000
24 January 2011 - by Dr Marianne Kennedy 
Couples struggling to conceive may be more likely to have a child if the man takes certain vitamins or other antioxidants, according to scientists....
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