May 9, 2024

A Mother’s Day recruitment milestone in child health research

Preterm infant research study still seeking moms-to-be
Eight-week-old Tatum.
Ray-ann Bradley and her eight-week-old daughter Tatum are participants in the P3 cohort research study. Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Brooklea Graham was walking to an ultrasound appointment when a poster seeking new mothers for a research study caught her eye. Ray-ann Bradley saw an ad for the study on her social media feed.

Both women share a passion for women’s health, particularly for new mothers and their babies. A passion that has brought them together to be participants in a University of Calgary study of preterm childbirth.

“I just think its important to support other women, that’s what drove me,” says Graham. “This is an opportunity to impact health care for potentially a lot of mothers. Knowing that I am doing something to help means a lot.”

“I was fortunate to have a healthy pregnancy, but I know that’s not the case for everyone,” adds Bradley, cradling her eight-week-old daughter, Tatum, in her arms. “It’s something I’m delighted and proud to be a part of.”

Recruiting mothers for research

Just in time for Mother’s Day on May 12, the two mothers are helping the child health research group celebrate a milestone.

Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) professor Dr. Amy Metcalfe, PhD’12, co-leads a multidisciplinary team of scientists and physicians studying preterm birth. The scientists are recruiting thousands of women, like Graham and Bradley, living in the Calgary zone of Alberta Health Services, to better understand and eventually predict those who will deliver preterm, identify opportunities to prevent preterm birth and improve health outcomes for children born preterm.

The Prediction, Prevention and Interventions for Preterm birth, or P3 Cohort study, announced that more than 2,000 qualified participants will have joined the study before Mother's Day 2024. It's a significant achievement, but Metcalfe says they are seeking 1,000 more women to sign up.

“Pregnancy is a universal human experience but there’s so much that we don’t know about why some people have healthy pregnancies and why others develop complications,” says Metcalfe, who was pregnant with her son and a new mother in the planning days of the study.

Moms, babies, and doctors

Brooklea Graham, Dr. Amy Metcalfe, Ray-ann Bradley and Ray-ann’s eight-week-old daughter Tatum.

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Metcalfe says the cohort includes an observational study of thousands of mothers and their babies as well as sub-studies focused on high-risk pregnancies, low-income participants, brain and neurological development in preterm babies, and the siblings of children in the cohort.

“This is one of the few prospective cohort studies on preterm birth that is going to look specifically at siblings,” Metcalfe says. 

The study involves more than 60 researchers from multiple UCalgary faculties. Recruiting began in 2021 and cohort co-lead Dr. Lara Leijser, MD, PhD, says they continue advertising the study on social media and in hospitals and clinics where pregnant people have appointments.

“Participants in the study also have access to a Facebook group with other pregnant people and new parents, to share experiences and knowledge. We’ve heard from people in the study that this connection has been particularly meaningful through their pregnancy journey,” says Leijser, an associate professor with the CSM.

Alberta has among highest rates of preterm birth

Preterm birth, or delivery before 37 weeks of pregnancy, is the main reason for neonatal intensive care unit admission and a significant cause of brain injury and long-term disability. Almost eight per cent of Canadian births are preterm, and Alberta has among the highest rates in North America. The underlying reasons for preterm birth are still largely unknown.

“The P3 cohort is a longitudinal cohort study, meaning researchers repeatedly examine the same individuals to detect any changes that might occur over time and follow the babies for several years, some as many as two decades,” says study co-lead Dr. Donna Slater, PhD, a professor at the CSM. “Participants complete questionnaires and grant access to medical exam data related to their pregnancy.”

Funders of the study include the Calgary Health Foundation and the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation. Learn more about participating in the P3 Cohort study.

Child Health and Wellness
The University of Calgary is driving science and innovation to transform the health and well-being of children, youth and families. Led by the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute (ACHRI), top scientists across the campus are partnering with Alberta Health Services, the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation, and our community to create a better future for children through research.

Amy Metcalfe is a professor in the departments of Obstetrics and GynaecologyCommunity Health Sciences, and Medicine at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) and a member of the ACHRI, the Libin Cardiovascular Institute, the O’Brien Institute for Public Health and the Owerko Centre at the CSM. She is also a co-facilitator for the UCalgary’s One Child Every Child theme Better Beginnings.

Lara Leijser is an associate professor in the Department of Paediatrics, section of Newborn Critical Care, at the CSM. She is a member of ACHRI, the Owerko Centre and the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the CSM. 

Donna Slater is a professor in the departments of Physiology and Pharmacology, Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the CSM and a member of ACHRI and the Owerko Centre at the CSM.

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