What Conditions During Pregnancy Are Hereditary?

When you become pregnant, you'll likely have a lot of things on your mind—including how your pregnancy and delivery will progress. Though pregnancies are different for everyone, you may be able to determine how parts of your pregnancy and delivery may go by exploring your family history. Of course, there are also some conditions you may not be able to predict, like weight gain.

Looking at specific health conditions in your family and finding out about your female relatives' birth experiences can give insight into what to expect, explained Laura E. Riley, MD, obstetrician, and gynecologist-in-chief at Weill Cornell Medicine Center in New York. 

Premature Birth

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tells us that the premature birth rate is approximately 10%—meaning that one in every 10 babies is born before 37 weeks. According to a study published in January 2021 in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology MFM, having a maternal family history of premature births increases the chances of a descendant also delivering prematurely. 

Additionally, according to that study, your odds of a premature birth increase if you were born prematurely or have a sister who had a premature birth.

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression, which typically begins one to three weeks after delivery, affects one in eight women, said the CDC. 

Changes in hormones and the stress of adjusting to motherhood can trigger postpartum depression, characterized by moderate to severe feelings of sadness, according to the National Library of Medicine. Additionally, a family history of depression (postpartum or not) plays a role.

Dr. Riley said the link doesn't mean you'll end up with postpartum depression. But it is essential to be on the lookout to recognize the signs, such as mood swings and intense fatigue, and not hesitate to seek outside support.


Preeclampsia is a complication caused by changes in blood flow to the placenta, the organ that develops during pregnancy to provide oxygen and nutrients to the fetus.

It is usually characterized by high blood pressure or swelling in the hands and feet. Preeclampsia can sometimes be dangerous, so pregnant people who develop the condition should be closely monitored by their OB-GYNs.

"There's an association between mothers and sisters and daughters who have had preeclampsia," explained Dr. Riley. 

One study published in Integrated Blood Pressure Control noted that your risk nearly triples if a close female relative experienced the condition. 

Preeclampsia typically goes away after childbirth, so if you're near enough to your due date, your OB-GYN may recommend inducing delivery. Otherwise, you'll likely have to visit your healthcare provider more often to ensure your blood pressure is controlled.

Gestational Diabetes

Approximately 9% of pregnant people develop high blood sugar levels, a condition called gestational diabetes. 

Any pregnant person can develop it. But according to one study published in June 2021 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, risk factors include being older, having a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30, and having one or more close family members with type 2 diabetes. If a member of your immediate family has type 2 diabetes, tell your healthcare provider so they can keep close tabs on your blood sugar. 

If you have gestational diabetes and your blood sugar isn't under control, your baby may be born at a heavier weight than average. When babies are born weighing more than eight pounds and 13 ounces, they are characterized as having macrosomia, according to the National Library of Medicine. Macrosomia is a condition that can lead to breathing problems at birth and a greater risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life.


According to the National Library of Medicine, miscarriages are one of the most common reasons for pregnancy loss. 

The risk of miscarriage increases due to certain factors—such as the pregnant person's age, history of miscarriages, and lifestyle or health factors. 

Although many factors can cause miscarriage, evidence suggests that miscarriages have a 29% chance of heritability (how much a trait or condition is based on genetics), according to a study published in November 2020 in Nature Communications.

What Conditions During Pregnancy Are Not Hereditary?

Just as some pregnancy-related conditions or situations have a familial pattern, some are not. Cesarean deliveries (C-sections), weight gain, and duration of labor are three pregnancy experiences that are not considered hereditary.

Cesarean Sections (C-Sections)

A C-section is a surgical delivery of the fetus through an incision in the abdomen and uterus. According to the Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library, healthcare providers perform C-sections if they are the safer alternative for the pregnant person, baby, or both.

According to Dr. Riley, numerous factors determine whether you may require the procedure over vaginal delivery. But patients typically ask about the need for the surgery based on their mothers' experiences. 

"[Pregnant people] will explain that they have the same size pelvis as their mother," assuming that means a vaginal delivery is out of the question, "but they really don't know that," explained Dr. Riley.

Weight Gain

Just because your mother gained 15 or 50 pounds during pregnancy does not mean you will. 

In terms of weight gain during pregnancy, Dr. Riley said that behavioral factors, such as eating and exercise habits, plus your weight before you became pregnant, matter more than your family history.

Duration of Labor

Labor is the process that your body goes through to prepare for delivery. Your uterus contracts to help your cervix dilate, allowing the fetus to move swiftly through the birth canal, per the Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library.

How short or long your labor lasts depends on various factors, including your age and fetus weight, according to a study published in December 2018 in Medicine. The length of your mother's labor—or that of any immediate female family member—will not factor into the duration of your labor.


When it comes to pregnancy, premature birth, postpartum depression, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and miscarriages can run in families. However, not every complication occurring during pregnancy is hereditary.

If you have any questions or concerns about anything related to your pregnancy, it's always a good idea to contact your healthcare provider for answers.

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