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New study aims to improve healthcare for pregnant women with multiple health conditions

Last updated: 19/08/2021

University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust is one of the organisations taking part in a new three-year UK-wide study aimed at improving healthcare and outcomes for pregnant women who have two or more active long-term health conditions.

Currently, one in five pregnant women in the UK have two or more active long-term health conditions. These can be both physical conditions (like diabetes or raised blood pressure), and mental health conditions (such as depression or anxiety).  Often women also have to take several medications to manage their different health needs.

The new study, led by the University of Birmingham and called Multimorbidity and Pregnancy: Determinants, Clusters, Consequences and Trajectories (MuM-PreDiCT), aims to use data-driven research to characterise and understand what makes having two or more long-term conditions more likely for pregnant women and the consequences for mother and child; and to predict and prevent adverse outcomes.

MuM-PreDiCT will be divided into five research work packages:

  1. Examining how health conditions accumulate over time and identifying what makes a woman more at risk of developing two or more long-term health conditions before pregnancy.
  2. Exploring women's experiences of care during pregnancy, birth and after birth, working together with families and health professionals to establish how care could be improved.
  3. Deeper delve into how having two or more long-term health conditions may affect pregnant women and their children by identifying outcomes that women, health professionals and researchers feel should be reported in research; examining how often women experience pregnancy complications; and exploring how frequently women and their children develop additional long-term ill health
  4. Investigating how taking combinations of medication may affect pregnant women with two or more long-term health conditions and their babies.
  5. Building a prediction model to help identify how likely a previously healthy pregnant woman will develop multiple long-term conditions after pregnancy.

Dr Kelly-Ann Eastwood, consultant in obstetrics and fetal medicine at St Michael’s Hospital, said: “As an obstetrician, I am increasingly caring for women who are living with two or more long-term health conditions. Pregnancy is often stressful and complex for these women, and it is challenging to predict the long term impact of pregnancy complications for these mothers and their offspring.

“MuM-PreDiCT will help clinicians and researchers better understand the impact of multiple health conditions during pregnancy and for women and their offspring in the longer term. Our research will provide recommendations to help plan and design services that better meet the needs of women and their families before, during and after pregnancy.”

Professor Krish Nirantharakumar, of the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Applied Health Research and Principal Investigator of MuM-PreDiCT, said: “Having two or more health conditions is becoming more common in pregnant women as women are increasingly older when they start having a family and as obesity and mental health conditions are on the rise in general.

“However, we don't really understand what the consequences are of multiple health conditions or medications for mothers and babies.

“This can make pregnancy, healthcare and managing medications more complicated. Without deeper understanding of the problem, women with several long-term health conditions may not have the best and safest experience of care before, during and after pregnancy because services have not been designed with their health needs in mind.”

Dr Beck Taylor, Clinical Senior Lecturer at the University of Birmingham and Co-Investigator of MuM-PreDiCT, said: “Our research will provide valuable information to help women and clinicians make informed decisions and identify points for prevention and intervention. We will also explore the experiences of maternity care for women with two or more long-term conditions and work with families and health and social care professionals to produce recommendations on how to plan and design services that meet the needs of women and their families before, during and after pregnancy.”

MuM-PreDiCT is being funded via the £20m UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF) initiative ‘Tackling multi-morbidity at scale: Understanding disease clusters, determinants & biological pathways’.  SPF is delivered by the Medical Research Council and National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) in partnership with the Economic and Social Research Council, and in collaboration with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.  It is jointly funded by UKRI and the Department of Health and Social Care, through the NIHR.

MuM-PreDiCT is being led by the University of Birmingham in collaboration with the University of Aberdeen, University of St Andrews, Swansea University, Queen's University of Belfast, University of Ulster, The University of Manchester, Keele University, University Hospitals Bristol & Weston NHS Foundation Trust, Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and Guy's & St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust.