Until now, if a woman gave birth prematurely, the assumption was that only her daughter had a higher risk of doing the same. A study at Soroka-University Medical Center, Clalit Heath Services and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba expands the familial connection of premature births to include the daughter’s aunt’s history as a medical indicator for premature deliveries.The study examined the results of the deliveries of more than 2,300 mothers and daughters over a 22-year period at Soroka. The leading cause of infant death, a premature birth, is defined as a birth that occurs before the start of the 37th week of pregnancy. Premature deliveries are also the most common cause of prenatal hospitalization, with 7% of all deliveries being premature.The study looked only at single and not multiple births.The team conducting the study included Dr. Yoni Sherf and Prof. Eyal Shiner of Soroka Medical Center, partnered with professors Natalia Bilenko, Ilana Shoham-Vardi and Ruslan Sergienko, researchers at BGU’s public health department.The study, published this month in the American Journal of Perinatology, found that the risk of preterm delivery was significantly higher in 34% of women whose own births had been premature (if their own mothers had delivered preterm).Another surprising finding was that if one of the sisters of the fetus’s grandmother (the mother’s aunt) had premature births, then the mother’s risk of going into labor and delivering a baby early was 30% higher.All births occurred in the same regional medical center between 1991 and 2013. The risk remained significant even after adjusting the origin and age of the mother. “The results of the study show that the mother and aunts should also have a medical history when considering the risk of pregnancy complications such as premature birth,” said Shiner, director of Soroka’s obstetrics and gynecology department. “Women who are at risk can benefit from close monitoring and early detection of genetic markers.”The study, which looked at actual births and not at statistics, did not look into the possibility that a woman had a higher risk of giving birth prematurely if her mother’s brother’s wife or her own brother’s wife had a premature birth. Shiner said that such a factor was probably not an influence.