April 6, 2021

University researcher leads international study on blood thinner use during pregnancy

Leslie Skeith's project is 1 of 27 from UCalgary to receive federal funding for health research
Leslie Skeith
Leslie Skeith Dawn Smith

Blood thinners are prescribed to individuals for a variety of reasons, including a history of blood clots in the legs (deep vein thrombosis) or lungs (pulmonary embolism). The medications can save lives by preventing future blood clots, but also increase risk of bleeding.

This poses a problem during labour and delivery when blood loss occurs naturally. For people who are on injectable blood thinners during pregnancy, doctors must balance the risk of blood clots and stopping the medication with that of uncontrolled bleeding during and following delivery. Yet few studies have been published on this topic, and there is a wide range of clinical practice when it comes to treating this group.

Dr. Leslie Skeith, MD, a Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) researcher and physician who specializes in blood clots, is heading an international group investigating best practices for managing pregnant women on blood thinners around the time of delivery. The group received a $742,000 grant  from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) in the fall 2020 Project Grant competition.

Skeith is one of 27 UCalgary scholars included in this announcement, bringing $17.1 million in funding to UCalgary.

“Project Grants support work across the spectrum of health research,” says Dr. William Ghali, vice-president (research). “What they have in common is a commitment to advance heath care and health outcomes of Canadians, demonstrated by Dr. Skeith’s impressive research program. We are grateful for CIHR’s support.”

The study will take place in six countries with the goal of finding the best strategies for working with this patient group. It will also look at important outcomes of health care utilization and patients’ perspectives — all with the goal of reducing maternal morbidity and providing patient-centred care.

“I am excited about our research. This really sets the stage for our strong network of international researchers to improve the care of pregnant women who are at risk of blood clots,” says Skeith. “We want to better understand what people are doing globally to treat pregnant women on blood thinners near the time of labour and delivery.”

It’s Skeith’s third CIHR grant as principal investigator in two years. All three studies have focused on pregnancy and blood clotting conditions, an area of interest for the researcher, who is a member of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute’s Women’s Cardiovascular Health Initiative, a group of researchers committed to improving women’s health by tackling the unique cardiovascular issues they face.

Skeith’s first CIHR grant was for the pilot PARTUM trial, which investigates the use of Aspirin as a way of reducing blood clots in postpartum women, and is in the final stages of recruitment in Calgary.

Leslie Skeith is an assistant professor in the departments of Medicine, Community Health Sciences and Oncology at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM). She is also a member of the CSM’s Libin Cardiovascular Institute, O’Brien Institute for Public Health and the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute.