Developmental Origins of Pregnancy Loss in the Adult Female Common Marmoset Monkey (Callithrix jacchus)

Background The impact of the intrauterine environment on the developmental programming of adult female reproductive success is still poorly understood and potentially underestimated. Litter size variation in a nonhuman primate, the common marmoset monkey (Callithrix jacchus), allows us to model the effects of varying intrauterine environments (e.g. nutrient restriction, exposure to male womb-mates) on the risk of losing fetuses in adulthood. Our previous work has characterized the fetuses of triplet pregnancies as experiencing intrauterine nutritional restriction. Methodology/Principal Findings We used over a decade of demographic data from the Southwest National Primate Research Center common marmoset colony. We evaluated differences between twin and triplet females in the number of pregnancies they produce and the proportion of those pregnancies that ended in fetal loss. We found that triplet females produced the same number of total offspring as twin females, but lost offspring during pregnancy at a significantly higher rate than did twins (38% vs. 13%, p = 0.02). Regardless of their own birth weight or the sex ratio of the litter the experienced as fetuses, triplet females lost more fetuses than did twins. Females with a male littermate experienced a significant increase in the proportion of stillbirths. Conclusions/Significance These striking findings anchor pregnancy loss in the mother’s own fetal environment and development, underscoring a "Womb to Womb" view of the lifecourse and the intergenerational consequences of development. This has important translational implications for understanding the large proportion of human stillbirths that are unexplained. Our findings provide strong evidence that a full understanding of mammalian life history and reproductive biology requires a developmental foundation.