Professor Peter Stone and Dr Alys Clark at the University of Auckland are leading research using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to determine, first, if mum's sleeping position affects blood flow across the placenta, and, second, if those blood flow differences had any effects on oxygen reaching baby.
They say, "We collaborated with researchers in the University College Hospital In London UK to explore novel MRI algorithms to assess maternal and fetal haemoglobin and oxygen transfer across the placenta, as this may be affected by the supine position in late pregnancy. The study built on our previous work using MRI to study the effects of maternal position on cardiac output and aortic blood flow. Here we aimed to determine if the blood flow differences had any effects on fetoplacental oxygenation."
The results have confirmed significant position effects on the vessels which supply the human uterus and hence the placenta. The researchers are now preparing a manuscript and will give an oral presentation at the Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand, then will be published in the Journal of Paediatrics.
Prof Stone says, “This is a team project which includes an exciting new collaboration between groups in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Anatomy and Bioengineering. We have shared interest in how mum delivers all the critical oxygen that baby needs to develop healthily in pregnancy. Because of our unique combination of backgrounds we were able to design a set of studies using magnetic resonance imaging to see inside mum’s uterus, and investigate how oxygen is delivered to baby when mum is lying in different positions when she is late in her pregnancy.”
This team has established and refined safe MRI techniques for use in pregnancy to determine how maternal position changes blood flow and in turn affect placental oxygen transfer to the baby. From this important work funded in part by AMRF, they will expand their study to pregnancies with vulnerable babies to help understand how maternal sleep positions may be associated with risk factors for stillbirth.