By 23andMe Co-founders Linda Avey and Anne Wojcicki
Every year, 130 million babies are born around the world. Yet little is known about why some women sail through their pregnancies, while others encounter issues such as infertility, miscarriage, pre-term labor, preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. Giving birth, whether in medically-advanced countries or in the developing world, is shrouded in mystery when it comes to predicting these conditions, and women have to face pregnancy with a “wait and see” approach to whether it will go well, or not. Modern medicine has certainly improved survival rates during childbirth, but research into identifying why some moms — and which ones — will go on to develop certain complications has been underserved.
We believe mothers like us, and soon-to-be-moms, would prefer to carry out their pregnancies armed with as much knowledge as possible, for the sake of themselves and their families. This is why we’re so excited to be announcing the launch of our newest community. The 23andMe Pregnancy Community is dedicated to bringing women together to help us shine a bright light on the whole birthing process, from conception to delivery and beyond.
By participating in this new endeavor, women will be invited to share their pregnancy experiences, both past and current, through online surveys we’ve developed with obstetrics experts. The Weekly Survey, for example, tracks a pregnancy throughout its course and gives each participant immediate feedback compared to others who are at the same gestational time point. Whether you’d like to know how your weight gain compares to a supportive group of women in the 36th week or if you’d like to see who else opted for a nuchal scan ultrasound at 11 to 13 weeks, you’ll soon feel a kinship with others in a whole new way.
In addition to surveys, our pregnancy community has a forum for posting questions, concerns and humorous anecdotes. If you’ve ever been in a conversation with a clutch of moms, there’s no end to the stories and reflections each and every one of them wants to share about her pregnancy. And, of course, we all think our own stories are the most interesting! (Linda has a great tennis ball story! ☺)
Another new thing about this 23andMe community is that spitting is optional! Up until now, participation in the 23andMe communities required you to enroll in our Personal Genome Service™ (meaning payment of $399 and a saliva sample). While we encourage participation at this level, we want our pregnancy community to be available to everyone who would like to join. The more women who are online sharing their experiences, the more we’ll learn together.
As our community grows, the 23andMe research platform is primed and ready to start analyzing the potential genetic underpinnings of pregnancy complications. If not for ourselves, we hope our daughters can enjoy healthier pregnancies because we’ve chosen to share the stories of our own.