The National Institutes of Health provided a research grant of $2.4 million to Sean Blackwell, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston, to study the link between obesity and high-risk pregnancies caused by preeclampsia and diabetes.
Medical News Today reports that researchers hope the observational study will provide them with a better understanding of the cause, diagnosis and history of preeclampsia and diabetes in pregnant women and whether or not obese pregnant women and non-obese pregnant women are at the same risk of having complications during their pregnancy.
Preeclampsia is a leading cause of fetal complications and is the second leading cause of maternal death in the United States. The NIH estimates preeclampsia causes 15 percent of premature births and leads to the death of more than 50,000 women each year. The only effective treatment for preeclampsia is to immediately deliver the baby.
Diabetes affects two to ten percent of all pregnancies and can lead to miscarriage and stillbirth, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Women with gestational diabetes and high blood glucose levels during pregnancy increase the risk of having a large baby and cesarean birth.
This new study focuses on pregnancies complicated by various degrees of obesity. Researchers will evaluate the role of blood vessels, fat proteins and other emerging molecules in the development of preeclampsia and gestational diabetes; explore the relationship between preeclampsia and gestational diabetes; and assess the association between a decrease in vaginal bacteria and preterm birth.
The researchers will follow non-obese and obese pregnant women with chronic hypertension and without diabetes, non-diabetic pregnant women with chronic hypertension with or without obesity, healthy obese pregnant women and healthy non-obese pregnant women. Participants will be followed from their first trimester through six weeks post-partum and researchers will assess changes in the metabolic parameters and blood vessel function of the mother, as well as changes in fetal growth.