World-First Study aims to give babies the best chance of a healthy life

Over the past decade, it has become clear that the large collection of microorganisms that live within and on our bodies – the microbiome – plays a crucial role in many common and serious health conditions.

An investigation being undertaken by researchers at the UNSW Microbiome Research Centre (MRC) at St George Hospital, the MothersBabies Study will investigate the changes in the human microbiome from pre-pregnancy, through to baby’s first birthday, to find out how pre-pregnancy lifestyle impacts health and pregnancy outcomes.

Professor Emad El-Omar is the Coordinating Principal Investigator for MothersBabies and Director of the MRC.

“We are aiming to recruit 2,000 women across NSW who are planning pregnancy. To collect unique knowledge about each pregnancy and how the microbiome status impacts various outcomes, we will analyse a woman’s microbiome prior to pregnancy, as well as at each trimester, at the time of delivery and for a minimum of one year following birth.

“In addition, samples for analysis will also be requested from partners, and from babies during their first year of life,” Emad said.

Amy, a local Kogarah resident and healthcare worker, has enrolled to be part of the study and is excited about what the findings could mean for her future family.

“When I saw the advertisement, my husband and I were starting to talk about planning for a baby – it was perfect timing”

“It important to contribute back to research so that new discoveries can be made about health and future generations, in particular with this study, for my future baby.”

“Given that there have been no other studies in the world that has really looked into microbiomes and how this effects the whole mother/baby journey even from pre-pregnancy, I am excited to be part of it.”

Previous studies have shown many childhood diseases including allergies, eczema, asthma, autism and childhood developmental milestones can be linked to the health of parents before and during pregnancy.

Professor El-Omar said “If we can determine how to prevent or treat disease from pre-pregnancy and into childhood, then we have the potential to impact positively on health outcomes for many future generations.

“Studying the changes in the microbiome that occur during pregnancy and correcting any imbalances before pregnancy may offer a unique opportunity to prevent negative outcomes.

“I believe the MothersBabies study will be the definitive microbiome study in pregnancy.”

The MothersBabies Study is funded by a Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) grant received by the St George and Sutherland Medical Research Foundation (SSMRF).

Leanne Dib, CEO SSMRF said “SSMRF is proud to support the MothersBabies study, it is a wonderful example of the many world-class research projects that are being conducted, right here in our local hospitals.”

Women aged over 18 years and their partners who are planning to have a baby are encouraged to participate in this important research.

This study is entirely observational, and there is no treatment involved. To take part, you must be NSW-based female, at least 18 years old, and be planning to fall pregnant in the next 12 months (but not currently pregnant). Researchers will ask some questions about overall health and wellbeing and ask pregnancy-wellbeing questions as your pregnancy progresses.

Associate Investigators from St George Hospital include Associate Professor Gregory Davis, Dr Amanda Henry, Dr Daniella Susic, Dr Xiaotao Jiang and Naomi Strout RN/RM. The MothersBabies study follows the recent MUMS Study, which recently completed recruitment at St George Hospital.

Interested?

Want to find out more about the MothersBabies Study? Watch this quick video from Executive Officer & Project Manager, Naomi Strout RN/RM.

Contact

If you would like more information or are interested in being part of the study please email the researchers at mothersbabies@unsw.edu.au.

To speak with one of the research midwives directly, call 02 9113 1832 during regular business hours.