Women in longterm relationships apparently have healthier pregnancies – possibly because of longterm exposure to the sperm of the baby’s father, an Auckland survey has found. Being in a long-term relationship before becoming pregnant gave the woman’s body time to build up immunity to “foreign” proteins in her partner’s sperm, according to Auckland University researchers. If she became pregnant early in the relationship, she lacked this protection.
The survey also found women having single, long-term partners were less prone to developing pre-eclampsia – raised blood pressure that can be life threatening and cause serious harm to both mother and baby. Pre-eclampsia affects about 3000 New Zealand women and their babies every year – varying between 3 percent and 7 percent of pregnancies. It can also involve water retention that causes swelling in the feet, legs, and hands, and protein in the urine, a sign of possible kidney damage. The only successful treatment for pre-eclampsia is delivery of the baby – often prematurely.
The researchers, led by Associate Professor Lesley McCowan, asked 2507 first-time pregnant women how long they had been with the baby’s father. The results of the study, published in the Journal of Reproductive Immunology, were adjusted for the lifestyle and background of the women including their weight, whether they smoked and their general health.