Women Have The Potential To Change The Health Of The World, & It’s All In Your Microbiome

Key Points

  • The MothersBabies study is truly a unique opportunity to make a real difference to the health of yourself, your bub & the world!
  • By focussing on mum’s for the future population’s health & wellbeing, we can decrease paediatric chronic health conditions the world over.
  • This Study wants to find out if our pre-pregnancy health & microbiome impacts on us falling pregnant, how healthy we are during pregnancy, & the health of our baby once they are born.

How you & your baby can help change the world!

Our microbiome is the collective term for the trillions of microbes that live as a community, in us (such as our gut and mouth) and on us (such as our skin). Research has shown us that the health of our microbiome can also impact on our health as a person.

Parents pass their microbiome’s onto their unborn children – but to what extent is still unknown. This is where you can help!

The MothersBabies Study aims to find out how our pre-pregnancy lifestyle impacts health outcomes for you and your baby, and how we can change our microbiomes for the better – not just for us, but for future generations too!

Meet Naomi, the Super mum & Project Manager for this world changing study

Hi, I’m Naomi, the Project Manager for this world first study. I’m also a mum to a gorgeous and very busy one year old, Piper, who made a rather exciting entry to this world last year due to my pregnancy being complicated by gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia! Due to this, I have a strong personal connection with the study, as I have recently returned to work after the birth of my first daughter ad quite a difficult pregnancy.

On the outside, I would have thought my microbiome was picture perfect (I eat well, exercise, don’t smoke and my BMI is in the ‘normal’ range) however during pregnancy I developed gestational diabetes (requiring insulin as it just did not respond to any changes in diet!) and pre-eclampsia which resulted in my daughter being born 4 weeks early via emergency caesarean section and spending 4 days in the NICU after birth. I also had a postpartum haemorrhage and developed postnatal depression after the trauma of the whole situation!

“If there was a test I could have done prior to falling pregnant that would have predicted any of what happened, and then there have been a way of changing it (as your microbiome can be changed back to a positive state!) in order to prevent any of those adverse outcomes I would have jumped straight on that to avoid the complications and trauma both my husband, myself and our bub went through!”

This study is super exciting as it wants to uncover how our microbiome (the DNA of all the bugs that live on us and in us) can impact on our pregnancies, in both good and bad ways. We’re both happy and healthy now (maybe a little sleep deprived, but what new mum isn’t?) but it would have been really interesting to know if my diabetes and blood pressure could have been predicted by a ‘marker’ in my microbiome before I became incredibly sick and needed to deliver Piper early.

What is your role in the study?

I’m the Executive Officer and Project Manager for the study, but my clinical background is as a nurse and midwife. I’m responsible for the day-to-day running of the study – making sure we get enough participants, that the information we collect is done in the easiest possible way, ensuring we have all the tools and supplies to run the study properly, and talking about the study with a variety of stakeholders to increase our reach and recruitment numbers!

What makes you most excited about this project?

Women have the power to change the health of the world – and it’s all in our microbiome! By focussing on mum’s as the framework for the future population’s health and wellbeing, we can decrease disease burden and paediatric chronic health conditions the world over.

This study empowers women to take the time out for self-care and making sure they are the healthiest versions of themselves going in to pregnancy!

What is this study hoping to achieve?

The MothersBabies Study wants to find out if our pre-pregnancy health and microbiome impacts on us falling pregnant, how healthy we are during pregnancy, and the health of our baby once they are born. The microbiome is the collective term for the trillions of microbes that live as a community in us, and on us (such as your gut, blood, mouth, skin, even a woman’s vagina). All the research is showing that the microbiome has a major impact on human health through effects on metabolism, immunity, and hormones, and is the is the focus of vastly growing research initiatives.

To date, it is only possible to test for risk of development of adverse pregnancy outcomes, once the woman has fallen pregnant or has been pregnant previously. There are no reliable pre-emptive diagnostic tools that can predict or reduce these outcomes in the preconception period, or how many women will be affected by them. We hope to change that by identifying non-invasive predictive biomarkers (something in our body that could indicate disease) in the preconception period.

Can you break that down for us?

What we’ve discovered in the 10 years since this type of research began, is that there are significant links with the microbiome in pregnancy and our health and wellness, however we know surprisingly little about the consequences of this, and what this could mean for future generations. We do know that everyone inherits their microbiome from their mothers and grandmothers (known as intergenerational and matrilineal inheritance of birth microbiota) and that our microbiome’s start to develop well before we are born.

Our microbiome also has the ability to exert its effects on the health of the next generation, and has been shown to be associated with specific childhood diseases such as allergies, asthma, obesity, and neurodevelopmental disorders like autism.

If someone’s health is already disrupted before they start to consider a pregnancy, these can have long lasting implications on the health of the woman, and ultimately her child.

It makes sense that our preconception microbiome has the ability to influences the pregnancy microbiome, given the impact our diet and lifestyles has on our reproductive success, and that appropriate management of existing medical and environmental risk factors enables us to optimise outcomes for mum and bub.

Who else is involved in the project, from organisations to prominent individuals?

The study is led by Professor Emad El-Omar, Professor of Medicine at St George & Sutherland Clinical School, UNSW, and Director of the Microbiome Research Centre. The MothersBabies Study is supported by a diverse multidisciplinary team that spans several specialties including obstetrics, fertility, midwifery, nursing, gastroenterology, maternal medicine, paediatrics and metabolic medicine. The work relies on state of the art expertise in Bioinformatics (MRC), genomics (Ramaciotti Centre for Genomics/UNSW), and metabolomics (Australian National Phenome Centre, Murdoch University, Perth). The St George & Sutherland Medical Research Foundation (SSMRF) was integral in us obtaining our seed funding from the Federal Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) and enabling the project to commence.

The MothersBabies Study is truly a unique opportunity to make a real difference to the health of the world. Of all the work that I have ever done, and will ever do, this is the most worthy and valuable and one that deserves all our effort and energy! We owe it to humanity to get this difficult study done because it will make a difference to millions of women and their children. No research is ever possible without the tremendous help and support of altruistic decent human beings. We need your help and together we will bring this one home!

Are you interesting in learning more about how you and your bub can be a part of changing the world?

Find out more about the study here: MotherBabies Study.

Want to take part? Register your interest here: MotherBabies Study

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Playgroup NSW leads play-based programs and services for NSW families with children birth to school age, offering development, shared experiences, and family support, that results in active citizens and inclusive communities.