Optimal timing for delivery

15 June 2010

Pregnant women with pre-existing high blood pressure are more likely to suffer complications such as poor fetal growth, early separation of the placenta, and stillbirth. To reduce the likelihood of these complications, it’s recommended that these pregnancies be considered for induced delivery. However, the optimal gestational age at which the infants should be delivered is unknown.

Dr. Jennifer Hutcheon, who received a 2009 MSFHR Trainee award, is conducting research to determine the optimal timing of delivery for pregnancies complicated by pre-existing high blood pressure so that risks of an adverse pregnancy outcome are minimized.

“Delivering too early may increase the risk of respiratory complications for the infant at birth, while delaying the induction of delivery increases the risk of stillbirth,” says Dr. Hutcheon. “My goal is to balance the risks and to find the best solution for both mother and baby.”

Prior to completing her PhD in epidemiology at McGill University in Montreal, Dr. Hutcheon worked as  nutritionist in gestational diabetes education and received a lot of questions from women about the how their nutrition and health could affect the health of their babies.

“It was at this time that I became interested in perinatal research methods and in developing the right tools to get the best answers to research questions on the health of mothers and babies,” she says. Her current research project will help develop a methodology that can also be used to identify the optimal timing of delivery for other obstetric situations like diabetes mellitus or elective cesarean.

Dr. Hutcheon chose to pursue her post-doctoral fellowship in BC in large part because of the BC Perinatal Database, part of Population Data BC, which allows her access to a large amount of data.

“The database provides population level researchers like me with the data they need, and the MSFHR award provides me with funding so I have time to devote to studying that data,” says Dr. Hutcheon who was recently awarded a CIHR Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health Rising Research Star award and post-doctoral fellowship award.

Because more women in Canada are delivering at a later stage in life, the number of pregnancies complicated by high blood pressure is expected to increase. Dr. Hutcheon’s study, funded in part by the Child and Family Research Institute, will provide guidance to their physicians to help minimize the number of adverse pregnancy outcomes in the Canadian population.