OMNI group's research is helping to make twin pregnancies safer

February 1, 2007

More than 7,000 babies are born at The Ottawa Hospital each year and an increasing number of them are coming as twins, triplets, and quadruplets. This trend is likely due to the increased use of assisted reproduction techniques, and it is occurring throughout North America and Europe. Over the last few years, researchers in the Obstetrics, Maternal, and Newborn Investigations (OMNI) Research Group, have taken a special interest in twin and triplet pregnancies and their findings are attracting international attention and changing medical practice.

For example, in the largest study of its kind ever, they found that heart attacks are almost four times more common and heart failure almost 13 times more common in women carrying twins and triplets compared to those carrying just one fetus.

“Because we now know the risks, we can monitor these women much more carefully, and in some cases we can actually do things to lessen then chance that a complication will occur,” said Dr. Mark Walker, leader of OMNI.

OMNI is also trying to develop best practices for delivering twins. For example, they’ve found that when the first twin is delivered by cesarean section, the second twin seems to do better than when the first twin is born naturally. Further studies could help doctors predict which approach is likely to be safest for which women. Another line of research involves developing tools to help doctors predict very early in pregnancy which women are at high risk for delivering twins before term.

While the OMNI group has done many studies on twins, their research program is broad. Their Ottawa Birth Cohort study is recruiting 8000 mother-baby pairs and compiling information about their genetics, blood chemistry, and social conditions to determine how factors present as in the earliest stages of life (including in the womb) contribute to health and disease later in life. They have also published important studies on the impact of antidepressants in pregnant women. These studies are helping health professionals at The Ottawa Hospital and around the world keep pregnant women, new mothers, and their babies as healthy has possible.

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