The first research chair in women’s cardiac health in Quebec will be launched with a study on the of role breastfeeding in reducing blood pressure among women who had high blood pressure or preeclampsia during pregnancy.
Set in motion by Heart & Stroke and McGill University, it will officially be launched on July 1 through a research project led by Dr. Natalie Dayan, Assistant Professor of Medicine at McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine and Director of Obstetrical Medicine in the division of General Internal Medicine at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC). The research chair will be funded equally by McGill and Heart & Stroke, with a total of $562,000 over a five-year period.
Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system, most often the liver and kidneys.
According to the Montreal Gazette, Dayan works closely with obstetricians to provide care to women who have a medical condition during pregnancy. “I am interested in the health of the mother during and after pregnancy and how it is a marker of longer-term health,” she said.
While large population studies have shown that women who breastfeed tend to have lower blood pressure and fewer markers of heart disease later in life, no studies have evaluated breastfeeding for its immediate potential protective qualities for women who experienced high blood pressure during pregnancy.
Dr. Dayan and a team including experts in breastfeeding, mental health and perinatality from McGill, Queen’s University and the University of Toronto will test a nursing-led breastfeeding intervention to determine whether giving these women additional support improves their breastfeeding practices and reduces their blood pressure. Using a specific breastfeeding scale, it will assess such factors as a woman’s confidence around breastfeeding and what challenges she might be facing, from whether there is enough milk to whether she is getting the support she needs, and address them.
The project will involve two groups — one that gets the nursing intervention and one without the intervention, with the mothers followed for 12 months. The complete study will have 350 participants recruited through McGill centres and a centre in Ontario. A smaller pilot study is being done first to test the protocol.
The plan is also to follow the women long-term, through their medical records, to gather information about them and see who, for instance, is admitted to hospital for heart disease or stroke.