Neutrophil-Derived Inflammation and Pregnancy Outcomes

*Emmanuel Ifeanyi Obeagu1, Getrude Uzoma Obeagu2, Matthew Chibunna Igwe3, Esther Ugo Alum4,5 and Okechukwu Paul-Chima Ugwu5

1Department of Medical Laboratory Science, Kampala International University, Uganda.

2School of Nursing Science, Kampala International University, Uganda.

3Department of Public Health, Kampala International University, Uganda.

4Department of Biochemistry, Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, Nigeria.

5Department of Publication and Extensions, Kampala International University, Uganda.

*Corresponding author: Emmanuel Ifeanyi Obeagu, Department of Medical Laboratory Science, Kampala International University, Uganda,, ORCID: 0000-0002-4538-0161


Inflammation, orchestrated by immune cells like neutrophils, plays a crucial role in maintaining homeostasis and protecting against pathogens. However, during pregnancy, the delicate balance of immune responses is paramount to support fetal development while safeguarding maternal health. Neutrophils, as pivotal contributors to the innate immune system, significantly influence the inflammatory milieu, yet excessive or dysregulated neutrophil-derived inflammation can impact pregnancy outcomes. This paper aims to dissect the multifaceted role of neutrophil-derived inflammation in shaping pregnancy outcomes. It delves into the mechanisms by which neutrophils orchestrate inflammatory responses during gestation and scrutinizes the implications of heightened inflammation on maternal-fetal health. Specifically, it explores the association between increased neutrophil-driven inflammation and adverse outcomes such as preterm birth, preeclampsia, intrauterine growth restriction, and fetal developmental abnormalities. Examining the intricate balance between protective and detrimental roles of neutrophil-derived inflammation, this review assesses alterations in neutrophil functions, activation pathways, and the release of inflammatory mediators during normal and pathological pregnancies. Additionally, it evaluates potential regulatory mechanisms governing neutrophil-derived inflammation and identifies putative biomarkers indicative of heightened inflammatory responses linked to adverse pregnancy outcomes. The clinical implications of understanding the impact of neutrophil-derived inflammation on pregnancy outcomes are highlighted, emphasizing its significance in obstetric care, prenatal monitoring, and potential therapeutic interventions. Furthermore, this review delineates the critical need for future research avenues focusing on molecular investigations, therapeutic modulation of neutrophil-driven inflammation, and longitudinal studies to elucidate the long-term consequences on maternal and fetal well-being. In conclusion, unraveling the intricate interplay between neutrophil-derived inflammation and pregnancy outcomes is imperative. A deeper understanding of these interactions holds promise for informing clinical strategies, improving prenatal care, and ultimately optimizing maternal and fetal health.


Pregnancy orchestrates a complex interplay of immunological adaptations to support fetal growth and protect against potential threats while maintaining maternal well-being. In this intricate balance, immune cells, particularly neutrophils, emerge as central players in modulating the inflammatory milieu throughout gestation [1-3]. Neutrophils, traditionally recognized for their role in combating infections through rapid responses and inflammatory mechanisms, are increasingly scrutinized for their impact on pregnancy outcomes [4-6]. The immune landscape during pregnancy undergoes dynamic alterations to accommodate the developing fetus, navigating the challenge of defending against pathogens while tolerating the semi-allogeneic nature of the placenta [7-9]. Amidst this immune adaptation, neutrophils stand poised at the forefront of the innate immune defense, playing a dual role in immune surveillance and inflammation [10]. This paper aims to dissect the multifaceted role of neutrophil-derived inflammation in the context of pregnancy outcomes. It navigates the landscape of innate immunity during gestation, emphasizing the intricate interplay between neutrophils and inflammatory responses in both physiological and pathological pregnancies. Understanding the mechanisms by which neutrophil-driven inflammation contributes to adverse pregnancy outcomes, including preterm birth, preeclampsia, intrauterine growth restriction, and fetal developmental abnormalities, is paramount. In this pursuit, we delve into the complex interrelationships between neutrophils and the inflammatory microenvironment of the uteroplacental unit, evaluating the potential implications of dysregulated neutrophil-derived inflammation on maternal-fetal health. Additionally, we explore the regulatory mechanisms governing neutrophil activation, the release of inflammatory mediators, and the potential utility of biomarkers associated with heightened inflammation as predictive tools for adverse pregnancy outcomes. The significance of comprehending the impact of neutrophil-derived inflammation on pregnancy outcomes extends to clinical practice, necessitating a deeper understanding to inform obstetric care, prenatal monitoring, and therapeutic interventions [11-13]. Ultimately, uncovering the nuanced role of neutrophil-driven inflammation during gestation holds promise for deciphering pathways to optimize maternal-fetal health and offers avenues for future research to bridge knowledge gaps in this critical realm of perinatal immunology.

Neutrophil Functions and Inflammatory Responses

Neutrophils, as essential components of the innate immune system, play a pivotal role in mounting inflammatory responses to combat infections and maintain tissue homeostasis [14-16]. Neutrophils are rapidly mobilized to sites of infection or tissue injury through a process called chemotaxis [17]. They respond to chemical signals, such as cytokines and chemokines released by damaged tissues or immune cells, migrating towards areas requiring immediate immune defense. They use specialized receptors to recognize and internalize microbes into phagosomes, where they deploy antimicrobial mechanisms to eliminate invaders [18], including the release of enzymes, reactive oxygen species (ROS), and antimicrobial peptides. Neutrophils contribute to inflammation by releasing a range of inflammatory mediators [19]. These include cytokines (such as TNF-alpha, IL-1, and IL-6), chemokines (like IL-8), and lipid mediators (prostaglandins, leukotrienes), amplifying the local immune response and recruiting other immune cells to the site of infection. Neutrophils have the capability to release extracellular traps known as neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs). These are web-like structures composed of DNA, histones, and antimicrobial proteins, aimed at trapping and neutralizing pathogens, preventing their spread [20]. Neutrophils generate Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), such as superoxide radicals and hydrogen peroxide, as part of their antimicrobial arsenal. These ROS have potent antimicrobial properties, aiding in the destruction of engulfed pathogens [21]. They undergo apoptosis, facilitating their removal by macrophages and subsequent resolution of the inflammatory response to prevent tissue damage and promote healing [22]. Neutrophils interact with various immune cells, including macrophages, dendritic cells, and lymphocytes, influencing the adaptive immune response. They can modulate the activation and function of other immune cells through the release of cytokines and direct cell-cell interactions [23]. Neutrophils are versatile immune cells that respond swiftly to infections by deploying a range of mechanisms to combat pathogens and regulate the inflammatory milieu [24-27]. Understanding their multifaceted functions in inflammatory responses is crucial for comprehending their role in immune defense and their contributions to both protective and pathological aspects of inflammation.

Immunomodulation and Pregnancy Complications

Immunomodulation during pregnancy is a complex process that involves intricate interactions between maternal immune responses and fetal development. Dysregulated or altered immune responses, including those mediated by neutrophils, can contribute to various pregnancy complications [28-31].  Dysregulated immune responses, characterized by heightened inflammation, can predispose pregnant individuals to preterm birth. Excessive neutrophil-derived inflammation may contribute to premature labor by inducing cervical remodeling or initiating uterine contractions, leading to preterm labor and delivery [32-36]. Preeclampsia, a multisystem disorder characterized by hypertension and proteinuria, is associated with altered immune responses. Dysfunctional neutrophil activation and increased systemic inflammation have been implicated in the pathogenesis of preeclampsia, contributing to endothelial dysfunction and maternal vascular complications [37-40]. Immunomodulation imbalance can impact placental function, potentially leading to intrauterine growth restriction. Dysregulated inflammatory responses involving neutrophils may impair placental blood flow and nutrient transport, affecting fetal growth and development [41-44]. Altered immune responses during pregnancy can influence fetal development. Excessive inflammation mediated by neutrophils might disrupt the delicate balance required for normal fetal development, potentially contributing to congenital abnormalities or developmental disorders [45-49]. Immunomodulation plays a crucial role in protecting against infections during pregnancy. Dysregulated immune responses, including impaired neutrophil functions, might increase susceptibility to infections, which can lead to miscarriages or fetal loss [40, 50-53]. Immunomodulation is crucial for maintaining maternal-fetal tolerance, preventing rejection of the semi-allogeneic fetus. Dysregulated immune responses, including aberrant neutrophil activation, might disrupt this tolerance and contribute to pregnancy complications [41]. Heightened inflammatory mediators released by activated neutrophils, such as cytokines and chemokines, can have detrimental effects on placental function, vascular health, and fetal development, contributing to various pregnancy complications [40]. Understanding the role of immunomodulation, including the involvement of neutrophils, in pregnancy complications is vital. It emphasizes the need for further research to elucidate the underlying mechanisms, identify potential biomarkers, and develop targeted inter ventions aimed at modulating immune responses to mitigate the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes. This knowledge holds promise for improving maternal and fetal health outcomes in complicated pregnancies.

Neutrophil Responses in Normal vs. Pathological Pregnancies

Neutrophils, as key players in immune responses, exhibit variations in their functions and responses in normal versus pathological pregnancies [54-58]. During pregnancy, there’s a gradual increase in neutrophil counts, particularly in the second and third trimesters. This physiological rise in neutrophils is part of the overall changes in immune cell distribution to support maternal and fetal health [59-62]. Neutrophils in normal pregnancies may exhibit altered activation states. While there might be an increase in certain activation markers, they often maintain a balanced functional profile, contributing to immune surveillance without inducing excessive inflammation [63-65]. They participate in immune regulation to prevent rejection of the semi-allogeneic fetus. In healthy pregnancies, neutrophils contribute to a balanced inflammatory milieu. They engage in protective immune responses against pathogens without inciting an exaggerated or detrimental inflammatory response [66-69] In pathological pregnancies, such as those complicated by preeclampsia, intrauterine growth restriction, or infections, neutrophils may exhibit dysregulated functions. This can include increased activation, altered chemotaxis, or exaggerated release of inflammatory mediators [70-72]. Pathological pregnancies are often characterized by heightened systemic inflammation. Dysregulated neutrophil responses can contribute to an imbalance in the inflammatory environment, potentially leading to adverse pregnancy outcomes like preterm birth or complications related to placental dysfunction. like preeclampsia or infections, aberrant neutrophil responses may exacerbate inflammation, endothelial dysfunction, and vascular damage, contributing to the pathophysiology of these complications. Dysregulated neutrophil responses in pathological pregnancies may impact placental function, fetal growth, and overall maternal-fetal health. These altered immune responses might contribute to adverse outcomes such as preterm birth, fetal developmental abnormalities, or maternal complications. Understanding the nuanced differences in neutrophil responses between normal and pathological pregnancies is crucial for deciphering their role in contributing to or mitigating the risks associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes. Further research is warranted to delineate the mechanisms underlying these differences and identify potential therapeutic targets to manage pathological conditions and optimize maternal and fetal health outcomes.

Regulation of Neutrophil Inflammation and Potential Biomarkers

Regulating neutrophil inflammation is essential for maintaining immune balance during pregnancy and preventing adverse outcomes. Identifying potential biomarkers associated with neutrophil-driven inflammation can offer insights into the monitoring and management of pregnancy complications [73-75]].  Regulatory factors, including anti-inflammatory cytokines (e.g., IL-10, TGF-β) and specialized pro-resolving lipid mediators (e.g., lipoxins, resolvins), help mitigate excessive neutrophil-driven inflammation and promote the resolution of inflammation [76]. Programmed cell death or apoptosis is a crucial mechanism for terminating neutrophil-driven inflammation. Accelerated apoptosis helps in the removal of neutrophils and limits their pro-inflammatory potential [77]. Intracellular signaling pathways and negative regulators modulate neutrophil activation, preventing exaggerated responses that could lead to tissue damage. Control mechanisms like feedback loops regulate the extent and duration of neutrophil activation [78].

Potential Biomarkers Associated with Neutrophil Inflammation

Cytokines (e.g., IL-6, TNF-α) and chemokines (e.g., IL-8) released during neutrophil activation serve as potential biomarkers of heightened inflammation. Elevated levels of these molecules in maternal circulation or at the placental interface might indicate increased neutrophil-derived inflammation [79-80]. Metabolic alterations associated with neutrophil activation, such as increased oxidative stress markers or changes in lipid metabolism, might serve as indicative biomarkers of heightened inflammation. Analysis of biomarkers within the placental microenvironment or amniotic fluid, where inflammatory processes occur, could provide insights into local neutrophil-driven inflammation and its impact on pregnancy outcomes [81-84].

Clinical Implications

Monitoring neutrophil-derived inflammation and associated biomarkers could aid in early risk assessment for pregnancy complications, allowing targeted interventions for high-risk individuals. Identification and validation of specific biomarkers associated with heightened neutrophil-driven inflammation may facilitate diagnostic tests for early detection and monitoring of pregnancy complications. Evaluation of neutrophil-related biomarkers might serve as prognostic indicators for assessing the severity and predicting adverse outcomes in high-risk pregnancies. Understanding the role of neutrophil-driven inflammation in pregnancy complications can help identify potential therapeutic targets, enabling the development of targeted interventions to modulate inflammation.

Management Strategies

Targeted interventions aimed at modulating neutrophil-driven inflammation could be initiated early in pregnancies identified as high risk. These interventions might include anti-inflammatory agents or immunomodulatory treatments [85. Regular monitoring of neutrophil-related biomarkers in at-risk pregnancies can aid in surveillance, allowing clinicians to track changes and adjust management strategies accordingly. Tailoring management approaches based on individual patient profiles and the severity of neutrophil-driven inflammation could optimize care for pregnant individuals at risk of complications [86-90]. Implementing lifestyle modifications or nutritional interventions that have shown anti-inflammatory effects may help in managing neutrophil-driven inflammation. For instance, promoting a balanced diet or supplementation with certain nutrients may modulate immune responses. Developing pharmacological agents specifically targeting neutrophil activation, inflammatory mediators, or immune regulatory pathways could offer novel therapeutic approaches [87-94]. Collaborative care involving obstetricians, immunologists, and other specialists could ensure a comprehensive approach to managing pregnancy complications associated with neutrophil-driven inflammation [90-94]. Providing education to pregnant individuals about the implications of inflammatory responses on pregnancy outcomes and offering support and guidance for adherence to management strategies. Recognizing the clinical implications of neutrophil-driven inflammation in pregnancy complications enables the development of targeted management strategies aimed at early detection, intervention, and personalized care. Further research to validate biomarkers and therapeutic approaches is essential to improve clinical outcomes for pregnant individuals at risk of complications associated with altered neutrophil functions and inflammation.

Future Directions and Research Implications

Understanding the role of neutrophil-driven inflammation in pregnancy complications opens avenues for further research and potential interventions. Further investigations into the specific mechanisms underlying neutrophil-driven inflammation in various pregnancy complications (e.g., preeclampsia, preterm birth) are essential. Understanding how neutrophils contribute to the pathology of these conditions can identify potential therapeutic targets [88]. Exploring interactions between neutrophils and other immune cells, such as macrophages, dendritic cells, and T cells, in the context of pregnancy complications can unveil intricate immune responses and their impact on maternal-fetal health. Continuation of research to identify and validate specific and reliable biomarkers associated with neutrophil-driven inflammation in pregnancy complications. Validation of these biomarkers could enhance early detection and prognosis. Investigating biomarkers within the placental microenvironment or amniotic fluid to better understand local inflammatory processes and their correlation with systemic neutrophil-driven inflammation. Development of targeted interventions or immunomodulatory therapies aimed at modulating neutrophil activation, function, or inflammatory responses in high-risk pregnancies without compromising fetal development. Conducting clinical trials to evaluate the efficacy and safety of novel therapeutic approaches targeting neutrophil-driven inflammation in pregnant individuals with specific complications. Longitudinal studies to assess the long-term outcomes of pregnancies affected by neutrophil-driven inflammation. This includes evaluating the impact on offspring health, immune development, and potential implications in adulthood. Large-scale population-based studies to assess the prevalence and significance of altered neutrophil functions in diverse populations and their association with varying pregnancy outcomes. Translating research findings into clinical practice by integrating validated biomarkers or therapeutic interventions targeting neutrophil-driven inflammation into obstetric care protocols. Advancing towards personalized medicine by tailoring management strategies based on individual patient profiles and their specific neutrophil-related inflammatory status. Continued research efforts focusing on elucidating the mechanisms, identifying biomarkers, and developing targeted interventions related to neutrophil-driven inflammation in pregnancy complications are imperative. These endeavors hold promise for advancing our understanding and improving clinical outcomes in high-risk pregnancies affected by altered neutrophil functions and associated inflammation.


The intricate interplay between neutrophil-driven inflammation and pregnancy outcomes presents a compelling area of research with profound clinical implications. Neutrophils, pivotal components of the innate immune system, wield significant influence over the inflammatory milieu during gestation, contributing to both protective and pathological aspects of immune responses. Evidence increasingly suggests that dysregulated neutrophil functions and heightened inflammation play critical roles in pregnancy complications such as preterm birth, preeclampsia, intrauterine growth restriction, and fetal developmental abnormalities. Understanding the mechanisms by which altered neutrophil-driven inflammation contributes to these adverse outcomes provides insights into potential diagnostic biomarkers and therapeutic targets. Advancements in identifying specific biomarkers associated with neutrophil-driven inflammation offer promise for early risk assessment, prognostication, and personalized management strategies in pregnancies at risk of complications. Biomarker validation and integration into clinical practice could revolutionize prenatal care, enabling timely interventions to mitigate risks and improve outcomes for both maternal and fetal health. Further mechanistic studies unraveling the complexities of immune responses, immune cell interactions, and the local placental microenvironment are warranted. These investigations are crucial for the development of targeted immunomodulatory interventions aimed at regulating neutrophil-driven inflammation without compromising fetal development. As research in this field progresses, translating these findings into clinical practice remains imperative. Implementing validated biomarkers and personalized management approaches could revolutionize obstetric care, ushering in an era of precision medicine tailored to the unique inflammatory profiles of pregnant individuals. In conclusion, elucidating the intricate role of neutrophil-driven inflammation in pregnancy complications offers a promising pathway towards improving risk assessment, early intervention, and personalized care. Continued research endeavors aimed at understanding the mechanistic underpinnings and translating findings into clinical practice hold the potential to transform maternal-fetal health outcomes in high-risk pregnancies.


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  64. Nwosu DC, Nwanjo HU, Obeagu EI, Ibebuike JE, Ezeama MC. Ihekireh. Changes in liver enzymes and lipid profile of pregnant women with malaria in Owerri, Nigeria. International Journal of Current Research and Academic Review. 2015;3(5):376-83.
  65. Ibebuike JE, Ojie CA, Nwokike GI, Obeagu EI, Nwosu DC, Nwanjo HU, Agu GC, Ezenwuba CO, Nwagu SA, Akujuobi AU. Factors that influence women’s utilization of primary health care services in Calabar Cros river state, Nigeria. Int. J. Curr. Res. Chem. Pharm. Sci. 2017;4(7):28-33.
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  69. Elemchukwu Q, Obeagu EI, Ochei KC. Prevalence of Anaemia among Pregnant Women in Braithwaite Memorial Specialist Hospital (BMSH) Port Harcourt. IOSR Journal of Pharmacy and Biological Sciences. 2014;9(5):59-64.
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  72. Vidya S. Sunil Kumar Shango Patience Emmanuel Jakheng, Emmanuel Ifeanyi Obeagu, Emmanuel William Jakheng, Onyekachi Splendid Uwakwe, Gloria Chizoba Eze, and Getrude Uzoma Obeagu (2022). Occurrence of Chlamydial Infection Based on Clinical Symptoms and Clinical History among Pregnant Women Attending Clinics in Zaria Metropolis, Kaduna State, Nigeria. International Journal of Research and Reports in Gynaecology.;5(3):98-105.
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  74. Gamde MS, Obeagu EI. IRON DEFICIENCY ANAEMIA: ENEMICAL TO PREGNANCY. European Journal of Biomedical. 2023;10(9):272-5. links/64f63358827074313ffaae7b/IRON-DEFICIENCY-ANAEMIA-ENEMICAL-TO-PREGNANCY.pdf.
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  83. Obeagu EI, Obeagu GU. Postpartum haemorrhage among women delivering through spontaneous vaginal delivery: Prevalence and risk factors. Int. J. Curr. Res. Chem. Pharm. Sci. 2023;10(8):22-6.
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  91. Chinedum OK, Ifeanyi OE, Uzoma UG, Ngozi GC. Prevalence of Trichomonas vaginalis among pregnant women attending hospital in Irrua specialist teaching hospital in Edo State, Nigeria. J Dent Med Sci. 2014;13(9):79-82.
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CITE AS: Emmanuel Ifeanyi Obeagu, Getrude Uzoma Obeagu, Matthew Chibunna Igwe, Esther Ugo Alum and Okechukwu Paul-Chima Ugwu (2023). Neutrophil-Derived Inflammation and Pregnancy Outcomes. NEWPORT INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SCIENTIFIC AND EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCES 4(2):10-19.