August 29, 2018

Later life pregnancy increases future heart problems in children

It’s a well-known fact that having children later in life can lead to complications. This is becoming more common as many women are not considering children until later in their lives. New research shows that not only does a later in life pregnancy increase the risk of adverse birth outcomes, but it may also increase the risk of children developing heart problems in the future.

Sandy Davidge, executive director of WCHRI, and her lab team have demonstrated, using a r-model system, that offspring born to aging mothers have increased susceptibility for chronic heart problems. “In this pre-clinical study, we found a number of cardiovascular risk factors are increased in offspring born from older mothers,” explained Davidge.

This is a significant finding as it’s common knowledge that risks increase for both mother and child with increasing maternal age, but as research grows in these areas, the greater the chances are to change those outcomes. “We are just starting to understand certain areas of development that may reduce the amount of risk factors and change the health trajectory of a child’s life,” said Davidge. Increased understanding around the impact of a mother’s age on a child’s development could decrease life-long chronic health problems through interventions and potential treatments before the conditions even manifest.

“Age is a risk factor among many other risk factors that need to be explored,” said Davidge. “We are also working with a group in the UK to understand the differences in the placental development between young mothers and older mothers.” The Davidge lab has several other projects underway to better understand risk factors and how they affect both the mother and child. “I am enthralled with pregnancy research,” shared Davidge. “There continues to be a need for research to improve pregnancy outcomes for both the mother and child.”

This type of precision health research isn’t pFossible without an amazing team and collaborators such as those with clinical colleague Christy-Lynn Cooke and her postdoctoral fellows, Alison Care and Amin Shah. “Being here at the University of Alberta and within WCHRI has created one of the best perinatal health research hubs that allows for a cross-pollination of ideas in the field,” said Davidge. “Many of my trainees have been supported by WCHRI which has allowed us to engage some of the brightest minds.”

Sandy Davidge’s research program is supported by the generous donors to the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation and the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation through WCHRI. Davidge is a Canada Research Chair in Maternal and Perinatal Cardiovascular Health and is supported by funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.