2023 Undergraduate Research Showcase

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date


Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Jessica D. Ayers


Pregnancy is often viewed as a cooperative endeavor between mother and fetus. However, biologists have documented that under the surface, pregnancy is better characterized as a time where genetic conflict between maternal and paternal genes over fetal development can run rampant. While genetic conflict is a typical aspect of pregnancy, uncontrolled genetic conflict has the potential to result in pregnancy complications for both the mother (e.g., miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm birth) and the fetus (e.g., intrauterine growth restrictions, low birth weight). But, unexpectedly, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented researcher with a case study to investigate genetic conflict during pregnancy. Specifically, medical doctors noted changes in the frequency of pregnancy complications (e.g., premature births, miscarriages, stillbirths) theorized to be influence by genetic conflict. As the biology of these complications did not change during the pandemic, we wanted to investigate potential behavioral changes that influenced the expression of genetic conflict in pregnancy complications using archival data. Understanding these relationships can elucidate how cultural and behavioral changes influence biological processes such as the occurrence of pregnancy complications.