Vidhi Desai

Supervisor: Maria Ospina

Project: Evaluation and review of evidence on the use of prebiotic, probiotic and synbiotic supplementation in pregnancy to reduce the risk of maternal mental health disorders during pregnancy and after childbirth

 

Hometown:

Fort McMurray, AB

Degree program:

Doctor of Medicine

What interested you in the summer studentship program?

I initially became interested in the effect of gut microbiota on health when I learned about it in my immunology course. I am eager to participate in Dr. Ospina's research project because it will allow me to expand my knowledge on the gut microbiota, as the project is determining the effect of gut microbiota on maternal mental health in the perinatal period. This topic is important to me because maternal and fetal health are intimately related and any negative consequences to the mother can have a direct effect on the fetus. The prevalence of maternal mental health problems is relatively high. Thus, it is important to determine how to reduce the prevalence of maternal mental health disorders, and whether the gut microbiota play a role in it. The impact of gut microbiota on maternal mental health is an emerging field and I am excited to be part of it!

How has your studentship helped you towards your career aspirations?

I am entering my second year of medical school, and this project has reinforced my interest in women's health. I am currently interested in pursuing a residency in obstetrics and gynecology, and this project was an excellent way for me to learn about the interplay between research and clinical medicine. In addition, the impact of gut microbiota on maternal mental health is an emerging field, and I am excited to be part of it with this project! Throughout the summer, I have attended seminars in the Emergency Department and Division of Reproductive Sciences, which have allowed me to increase my knowledge in clinical research and build connections with other professionals and students.

Lay abstract:

Mental health disorders (i.e. depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder) that affect pregnant women can have long-lasting negative effects on both the mother and child. Research has shown that nutrition and gut microorganisms have a role in the development of many mental health disorders. There is an interest in changing the gut microorganism composition using prebiotics, probiotics and their combination (synbiotics) to reduce the risk of developing mental health disorders. Studies have shown that probiotic supplementation is associated with reduced depressive symptoms in the general population. The objective of this summer project is to review and evaluate the evidence on the use of prebiotics, probiotics, and synbiotics by pregnant women to reduce the risk of developing maternal mental health disorders in the perinatal period. To research, a librarian will search electronic databases for research studies that evaluate the objective. Two reviewers will independently screen and select the studies, gather data on study characteristics, population, interventions, outcomes, and assess biases in the individual studies. The data from the different studies will be pooled together and the results summarized. This review will combine the current knowledge on the effectiveness of prebiotics, probiotics, and synbiotics in reducing maternal mental health risks, and identify the gaps in knowledge that can be addressed by future research studies.

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