23 October 2006
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
UNDERSTANDING THE LINK BETWEEN TEENAGE PREGNANCY, GROWTH AND NUTRITION
A new study, funded by Action Medical Research, is to look at whether the still growing bodies of pregnant teenagers could be harming their unborn babies by competing for vital nutrients.
The UK has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Western Europe. In 2003 60,000 babies were born to teenage girls in England and Wales, this represents around one in ten of all babies born that year.
Andrew Proctor of Action Medical Research said, “The most worrying thing about these statistics is that these teenage mothers are at an increased risk of suffering from pregnancy complications.
“They are particularly susceptible to having a baby that is below the weight it should be, or giving birth prematurely.
“This can prove to be devastating to the health of the baby; very small babies that suffer growth restriction are 60% more likely to suffer health problems or to die at birth.
“Many need neonatal care and can go on to suffer lifelong disabilities, learning difficulties or developmental problems.
“These problems can be extremely distressing for the babies’ young mothers, who not only have the personal and social problems of giving birth during their teenage years to deal with, but are still growing-up themselves.”
The University of Manchester based team, headed by Dr Rebecca Jones, is to look at the way that the placenta of a teenage mother is affected if she is still growing during her pregnancy.
The placenta, which grows in the womb during pregnancy, delivers nutrients from a mother’s blood to her unborn baby and takes waste products away.
Dr Jones said, “We believe that if a teenager’s body is still maturing during the pregnancy, there could be competition between the mother and her baby for essential nutrients.
“Some teenagers have very poor eating habits, which mean that their pregnant bodies are starting from an undernourished state. Therefore we are also going to be looking at the effect of the mother’s diet on the way that the placenta develops.
“The results of this research could mean that, in the longer term, the nutritional needs of pregnant teenagers will be more closely monitored and supplements or diet advice given to ensure the health of both mother and baby.
“Globally this could help a staggering 15 million teenagers and their babies; potentially decreasing the risk of these children from developing chronic illnesses such as heart disease in later life.”
Action Medical Research is actively campaigning for greater Government funding to prevent premature birth with its online petition www.standupfortinylives.org
NOTES TO EDITORS
Dr Rebecca Jones has conducted research into reproductive biology for 10 years. She has in-depth knowledge of the interactions between mother and baby during pregnancy.
Professors Colin Sibley, John Challis and Philip Baker are world-renowned researchers into the function of the placenta in normal and complicated pregnancies, and the effects of nutrition on the placenta and baby. Professor Philip Baker is also a Consultant Obstetrician and runs a specialised clinic for pregnant teenagers at St Mary’s Hospital, Manchester.
The team will be conducting detailed laboratory studies of placentas taken from 100 teenage mothers to look for abnormalities.
For more information about Action Medical Research or to arrange an interview with Dr Jones, please contact:
Action Medical Research
Tel: 01403 327493
Action Medical Research is a national charity, which is dedicated to building a healthier future for everyone. The Charity is funding research into many serious diseases and conditions, including premature birth, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, osteoporosis, sickle cell disease, Parkinson’s disease and stroke.
Action Medical Research has been making breakthroughs for over 50 years, and its life-saving work benefits babies, children and adults. The Charity’s successes include helping develop the UK polio vaccine, ultrasound scanning in pregnancy, the hip replacement operation, and discovering the link between taking folic acid and preventing spina bifida. www.action.org.uk
Touching Tiny Lives is Action Medical Research’s new campaign to give the most vulnerable babies in this country a better start in life. More research is needed to ensure that all babies, especially babies born prematurely, grow up healthy. Touching Tiny Lives aims to raise
£3 million to help fund a range of vital research.