New study aims to improve healthcare for pregnant women with multiple health conditions

A new UK-wide study aims to improve healthcare and outcomes for pregnant women who have two or more active long-term health conditions.

The three-year study, involving Keele University’s Professor Richard Riley and led by the University of Birmingham, aims to use data-driven research to characterise and understand how having two or more long-term conditions can affect pregnant women and the consequences for mother and child; and to predict and prevent adverse outcomes.

Currently, one in five pregnant women in the UK have two or more active long-term health conditions. These can be both physical conditions (like diabetes or raised blood pressure), and mental health conditions (such as depression or anxiety). Often women also have to take several medications to manage their different health needs.

The study, called Multimorbidity and Pregnancy: Determinants, Clusters, Consequences and Trajectories (MuM-PreDiCT) will be made up of five elements:

  • Examining how health conditions accumulate over time and identifying what makes a woman more at risk.
  • Exploring women's experiences of care during pregnancy, birth and after birth.
  • Understanding how having two or more long-term health conditions may affect pregnant women and their children.
  • Investigating how taking combinations of medication may affect pregnant women with two or more long-term health conditions and their babies.
  • Building a prediction model to help identify how likely a previously healthy pregnant woman will develop multiple long-term conditions after pregnancy.

Professor Riley, Professor of Biostatistics from Keele’s School of Medicine and Co-investigator of MuM-PreDiCT said: “Research is urgently needed to understand, predict and improve health outcomes in pregnant women with multiple health conditions. Therefore, I am delighted that the MuM-PreDiCT project has been funded, and that Keele’s Centre for Prognosis Research will play a pivotal role in its design and analysis, especially in regards the development and validation of risk prediction models.”

Professor Krish Nirantharakumar, of the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Applied Health Research and Principal Investigator added: “Having two or more health conditions is becoming more common in pregnant women as women are increasingly older when they start having a family and as obesity and mental health conditions are on the rise in general. However, we don't really understand what the consequences are of multiple health conditions or medications for mothers and babies.

“This can make pregnancy, healthcare and managing medications more complicated. Without deeper understanding of the problem, women with several long-term health conditions may not have the best and safest experience of care before, during and after pregnancy because services have not been designed with their health needs in mind.”

MuM-PreDiCT is being funded via the £20m UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF) initiative ‘Tackling multi-morbidity at scale: Understanding disease clusters, determinants & biological pathways’.