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Heritability of Gestational Weight Gain – A Swedish Register-Based Twin Study

  • Elina Scheers Andersson (a1), Karri Silventoinen (a2), Per Tynelius (a1), Ellen A. Nohr (a3), Thorkild I. A. Sørensen (a4) (a5) (a6) and Finn Rasmussen (a1)...


Gestational weight gain (GWG) is a complex trait involving intrauterine environmental, maternal environmental, and genetic factors. However, the extent to which these factors contribute to the total variation in GWG is unclear. We therefore examined the genetic and environmental influences on the variation in GWG in the first and second pregnancy in monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twin mother-pairs. Further, we explored if any co-variance existed between factors influencing the variation in GWG of the mothers’ first and second pregnancies. By using Swedish nationwide record-linkage data, we identified 694 twin mother-pairs with complete data on their first pregnancy and 465 twin mother-pairs with complete data on their second pregnancy during 1982–2010. For a subanalysis, 143 twin mother-pairs had complete data on two consecutive pregnancies during the study period. We used structural equation modeling (SEM) to assess the contribution of genetic, shared, and unique environmental factors to the variation in GWG. A bivariate Cholesky decomposition model was used for the subanalysis. We found that genetic factors explained 43% (95% CI: 36–51%) of the variation in GWG in the first pregnancy and 26% (95% CI: 16–36%) in the second pregnancy. The remaining variance was explained by unique environmental factors. Both overlapping and distinct genetic and unique environmental factors influenced GWG in the first and the second pregnancy. This study showed that GWG has a moderate heritability, suggesting that a large part of the variation in the trait can be explained by unique environmental factors.

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Corresponding author

address for correspondence: Finn Rasmussen, Department of Public Health Sciences, Child and Adolescent Public Health Epidemiology, Karolinska Institutet, 171 77 Solna, Sweden. E-mail:


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