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Women's health-related scientific findings presented by University of Pittsburgh researchers

SAN DIEGO, March 27 The clinical and basic science research findings of nearly two dozen studies are being presented by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh-affiliated Magee-Womens Research Institute (MWRI) at the 55th annual meeting of the Society for Gynecologic Investigation (SGI). In addition, James M. Roberts, M.D., MWRI founding director, will be honored during the sessions, which take place March 26 to 29 at the Manchester Grand Hyatt, San Diego.

An internationally known authority on the potentially deadly pregnancy complication preeclampsia, Dr. Roberts will receive the societys 2008 Frederick Naftolin Award for Mentorship. Established in 2003 to recognize contributions to the training and career development of investigators in the field of reproductive and womens health, the award is named for former SGI President Frederick Naftolin, M.D., Ph.D., of New York University.

It is indeed an honor to receive this award, said Dr. Roberts, professor and vice chairman of research in the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. American medicine has somewhat belatedly realized the importance of gender-based research for women, but each year, more young investigators discover this vital area of study. It is a great privilege to be part of this process of discovery.

Some 5 percent of first pregnancies are complicated by preeclampsia, a condition characterized by soaring blood pressure and protein in the urine that is a leading cause of maternal, fetal and neonatal disability and death, particularly in undeveloped countries and among disadvantaged populations.

Among the findings being presented are:

Obstetricians quick to point out tobaccos dangers; less likely to talk about alcohol, drugs

A study of conversational points covered during patients first obstetric visits has revealed that physicians and other caregivers are far more comfortable discussing smoking cessation than they are alcohol or illegal drug use during pregnancy. For the study, Judy C. Chang, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and colleagues analyzed audiotapes of 51 prenatal visits to 29 physicians, midwives and nurse practitioners.

While all providers asked their patients about their use of tobacco, alcohol and illegal drugs, discussion was more thorough concerning the adverse effects of smoking and related resources for smoking cessation compared to other risk factors. Provider responses to alcohol or drug disclosures included only general statements regarding effects on pregnancy, such as We find this is bad for babies, said Dr. Chang, who also is an MWRI investigator. Few alcohol or drug discussions assessed whether the patient had concerns regarding continued use during the pregnancy, or strategies for behavioral change.

Providers who talked about alcohol and drug use tended to refer their substance-using patients to genetics specialists for further evaluation rather than confront the issue more directly. In follow-up interviews, however, patients said they expected to be asked about substance use, and voiced a need for more information on possible fetal effects.

In addition to Dr. Chang, other authors include Diane Dado, M.S.W., Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC; Robert Arnold, M.D., University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; and Richard Frankel, Ph.D., Indiana University School of Medicine.

This is Abstract No. 407. Dr. Chang is discussing this work as part of a presentation, Health Services Research in Womens Health: The Science of Caring for Patients, at 1:30 p.m., PDT, March 27. Dr. Chang also is presenting a poster at 9 a.m., PDT, March 28.

Elevated markers of maternal cardiovascular risk persist even 10 years after preterm birth

Women with a previous preterm birth had higher concentrations of total cholesterol than women whose babies were born at term, and those whose babies were born earliest less than 34 weeks gestation had the highest concentrations, Janet M. Catov, Ph.D., and her colleagues report.

Women with preterm birth are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, but mechanisms relating to these conditions are not well understood, said Dr. Catov, assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at Pitt and an investigator at MWRI. We wanted to see whether some of these cardiovascular risk factors observed during pregnancy persist into the postpartum period.

Dr. Catov and her colleagues compared information on 47 women who had delivered prior to 37 weeks gestation with data on 104 women with term births, at or more than 37 weeks gestation. Concentrations of total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL and HDL also were collected an average of 7.4 years postpartum and compared.

We found that total cholesterol was an average of two to three times higher for women with a history of preterm birth compared to those with normal gestation births, said Dr. Catov, adding that results were similar for LDL and HDL cholesterol, even after adjustment for race, age, smoking and body weight.

Additional authors include James M. Roberts, M.D., and Roberta B. Ness, M.D., M.P.H., both of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

This is Abstract No. 204. Dr. Catov is presenting a poster at 10 a.m., PDT, March 27.


Contact: Michele Baum
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

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