Dr Miriam Stoppard: ‘Pairing up health of mum and baby makes sense to me’

When you think about it, the obvious way to manage a mother and child’s health is to join them together and consider them as a pair.

Except it’s never been done. Maternal health has always been considered separate from infant and child health.

But that makes no sense because the health of a mother and her baby is inextricably intertwined.

Step forward eLIXIR, which aims to reduce the risk of health problems in mothers and their children, funded by the Medical Research Council.

The eLIXIR partnership joins up maternity, neonatal and mental health between Guy’s and St Thomas’, King’s College Hospital and the Maudsley Hospital, which are all in London.

The health of a mum and her baby is connected
(Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Initial findings from this invaluable programme investigating the links between physical and mental health shared by mother and child have recently been published in the BMJ Open.

Ground-breaking eLIXIR is the first database in the UK to combine maternal, infant and child health data into a single resource.

This means information on large numbers of mothers, babies and children, looking at physical and mental health from the earliest stages of life, can now be correlated.

Early records from the database show 10,207 women born in more than 170 countries attended antenatal care at Guy’s and St Thomas’ and King’s College maternity services.

The most common maternal ­conditions reported were gynaecological (14%), asthma (8%) and pre-existing diabetes (6%).

Twice as many women gave birth at Guys’ and St Thomas’ as King’s College Hospital with an average stage in pregnancy of almost 37 weeks at the time the baby was born, and 3% were born before 34 weeks of pregnancy and 8% were born prematurely.

Of these women, about one in eight had sought help for mental problems and 307 women were being treated when they became pregnant.

An especially fascinating aspect of the programme is the eLIXIR Research Tissue Bank.

The biobank links mother and baby medical records with blood and tissue samples.

This linkage can help highlight the trends
and influences of new treatments, and will promote a better understanding of neonatal illnesses.

To date, a total of 1,271 samples have been collected.

This is a very exciting research project with enormous potential to track the origins of disease in early life within the community of South London.

That would point the way to ­effective strategies for preventing disease, says Professor Lucilla Poston, principal investigator of the study and head of the School of Life Course Sciences.

As the database collects details of mothers and babies, health and social care can be joined up.

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