Supervisor: Margie Davenport
Project: The impact of twin pregnancy on blood vessel function in late pregnancy
Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology
What's been the best part of your experience so far?
Cumulatively, every experience in the lab so far has been a wonderful learning experience and has been great in its own respect. If I had to pick just one, the best experience would be the environment of the lab itself; it is an environment that facilitates learning and every person in the lab is just as dedicated to helping you reach your goals. I think it is a super valuable asset to have everyone on your team helping you get you to where you need to be, this team-based attitude that research has is something I find exceedingly effective and fulfilling. Prior to this summer, I had only seen bits and pieces of what I thought research was, but this studentship has really opened my eyes to certain challenges and breakthroughs that research tends to offer. Coming from a kinesiology background, there is a large emphasis on evidence-based learning, so I can better appreciate what it takes to come up with this evidence and work on applying it in different areas of my learning and as my career progresses. From seeing participant recruitment, to seeing the actual test done, all the way to data analysis, it is extremely satisfying to see the entire process come to fruition. Each outcome we find tells a story about a person's health and this might just be the absolute best part, trying to uncover the physiological mechanisms that result in a particular story. I love wrapping my mind around a problem and trying to come up with potential explanations for why something happens and how—this is exactly what the foundation of research entails.
What has WCHRI's support through the Foundations for your studentship meant to you?
The support WCHRI has offered me, through funding provided by the Alberta Women's Health Foundation, the experience has been incredible to say the least. One thing that sticks out to me about WCHRI is their dedication and pride towards research; the multiple lunch and learn/lunch and share opportunities, as well as the research day, shows WCHRI's significant commitment to teaching and learning about advancements in diverse fields. Through these experiences, I have been fortunate enough to cultivate a true appreciation for research; there are many challenges and a certain level of patience that is needed for every step of the process, but the end result is immensely worthwhile. Through WCHRI, I have also been lucky enough to conduct research at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women, a direct partner with WCHRI, and the experience has been amazing. The environment the Lois Hole Hospital and WCHRI promote is one that fosters a desire for learning and advancement in research, that is exactly what is needed to help mold the next generation of potential researchers!
Maternal pregnancy complications, such as gestational diabetes and high blood pressure, are risk factors that are as strong as smoking for future development of cardiovascular disease in both mom and baby. Twin pregnancies have an elevated risk of developing complications; 80% of twin pregnancies are affected, compared to 25% of singleton pregnancies. Despite the elevated risk of complications in twin pregnancies, there is limited research regarding the body's adaptations to twin pregnancies, and as a result, specific recommendations for management, prevention and treatment of complications in women with twins are lacking. The physiological stress of pregnancy has been suggested to "unmask" risk for cardiovascular disease and consequently, some women develop hypertensive complications later in pregnancy. Abnormal responses to additional physiological stress at early stages of pregnancy can predict the development of gestational hypertension or preeclampsia later in pregnancy. Whether or not there is decreased maternal vascular function in women with twin pregnancies is directly associated with possible future hypertensive complications. Functional assessment of vasculature has been shown to be effective in singleton pregnancies, yet blood vessel function in twin pregnancies has yet to be examined. The aim of this project is to assess the effect of twin pregnancy on maternal cardiovascular health, specifically how twin pregnancies impact vascular system function, using flow-mediated dilation (FMD)—a marker of vascular function. The project will be the first to examine the independent impacts of twin pregnancy on vascular function. Such information could be used to inform larger trials that may lead to the earlier identification, and improved management, of women at risk of hypertensive complications.