Why do some pregnancies result in healthy babies, whilst others don’t? What are the factors behind this? That’s a question that Dr Chris Nolan, an endocrinologist in the Medical School, and his team are trying to answer in new research. Nolan is focusing on the factors behind the growth of diabetes in society. He now believes that early life events, starting in utero, may be particularly important in determining later life risks for diabetes.
“There are many pregnancies that go really well when the mother is obese giving rise to normal sized healthy babies. On the other hand, obesity is a high risk factor for things going wrong. Quite often these women have babies that are born obese,” says Nolan.
To investigate why some babies are born healthy and others not, Nolan is looking at the role of the placenta in obesity. “In this project, we want to know if the placenta is adapting to obesity to protect the baby. We’ll be studying mums and comparing their placentas to determine if there are differences between obese and non-obese women. If there are differences, then those adaptations are probably healthy.”
“The second question is if the pregnancy doesn’t go well and you have an obese baby, is the placenta failing to do its job? So, we want to compare the placentas from the obese mums who do well, to those who don’t, to see if there is a failure somewhere.”
“The project is in a really early stage, but I am very excited about the prospects,” says Nolan. “I hope that we can find some answers as to how the placenta works in pregnancy. I believe this could be extremely useful in helping deliver better health outcomes for pregnant women and their children.”