National Maternity Hospital and UCD partner to improve health of mums and babies

Posted March 16, 2018

A new perinatal research centre at the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street aims to improve the long-term health of mums and their babies through national and international collaborative research.

UCD Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Fionnuala McAuliffe, an internationally recognised expert in pregnancy, maternal and fetal health, will lead the new UCD Perinatal Research Centre.

The partnership between University College Dublin and Ireland’s largest maternity hospital will help to tackle national health challenges and “deliver greater access for patients to leading edge research”, said Professor Mary Day, CEO, Ireland East Hospital Group.

In addition to new research projects, the centre will coordinate several ongoing studies including the Pregnancy Exercise and Nutrition Study with Smartphone Application Support (PEARS).

Over 500 women are currently participating in PEARS to see how a low GI diet and increased exercise impacts the rate of gestational diabetes in an overweight and obese pregnant population. 



Women with a BMI of greater than 25 kg/m2 have a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes and a low glycaemic index (GI) diet in pregnancy has been shown to lower glucose intolerance.



“The initial results have found that this intervention package reduced the incidence of babies born large, for gestational age, which is an extremely exciting finding,” said Professor McAuliffe, UCD School of Medicine.

Other studies taking place at the UCD Perinatal Research Centre include the ROLO Kids and ROLO PreTeen studies. These are longitudinal follow-up studies of the ROLO study. Involving 800 pregnant women, the study assessed the impact of a low GI diet on birth weight, maternal glucose intolerance and gestational weight gain.

Children from the ROLO study have been followed up, along with their mothers, at 6 months, 2 years, and 5 years of age, with the 10-year follow-up to start soon. The study will determine whether maternal nutrition and low GI diet in pregnancy impacts on maternal and child health in the long-term. 

The research within the UCD Perinatal Research Centre is funded by grants from Health Research Board Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland, the European Union, and the National Maternity Hospital Medical Fund.

By: Jonny Baxter, digital journalist, UCD University Relations