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Improving overall health in new moms and future pregnancies

If you have a new baby it’s not too early to make sure you’re doing everything you can now to improve your overall health for the next pregnancy. What you do now could have short as well as long-term benefits for both you and your baby. 

That’s what the Lifestyle Intervention in Preparation for Pregnancy (LIPP) study out of Tufts Medical Center, one of three study sites in the U.S., is trying to determine. The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is being conducted in conjunction with the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA). 

Dr. Patrick Catalano in a white coat. What we’ve learned from other studies

“Research shows that what happens to the fetus during pregnancy can affect the life-long health of that child and long-term health of the mother with the development of problems such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis and inflammatory disorders,” explained Patrick Catalano, MD, Lead Investigator of the LIPP study, for the Mother Infant Research Institute at Tufts MC. “How a baby’s metabolism will function after birth is affected during a woman’s pregnancy, particularly in the first months of pregnancy.” 

While it certainly is beneficial for women to make healthy improvements to their lifestyles when pregnant, Dr. Catalano and his team are looking at the benefits to the mother and child from women starting sooner and continuing through pregnancy.

Making healthy life-style choices early on 

The LIPP study is exploring the benefits of women making healthy improvements prior to getting pregnant again—at about three months after giving birth to their first baby. 

“By focusing on healthy lifestyle interventions before a woman plans her next pregnancy, we are trying to help improve a mother’s overall health for future pregnancies,” said Dr. Catalano. “There could be significant health benefits to mothers and babies, including a decreased risk of obesity or metabolic disorders like diabetes and hypertension, by starting before the next pregnancy.”

Jessie holding her young son before participating in the LIPP trialJessie’s journey to LIPP 

“I wasn’t my ‘healthiest self’ before getting pregnant, and it’s hard to focus on yourself when you’re a new mom,” LIPP study participant Jessie Silverman recalled. “I heard about the study soon after I had my son and volunteered to be part of it so I can be a healthy mom for my baby, future baby and myself.”

LIPP Research Coordinator, Kathryn Russell, explained that the study participants are randomly split into two groups. Every participant has scheduled visits at Tufts MC and HNRCA. Participants in one group are counseled and supported on how to practice a healthy lifestyle, and the other group meets with a lifestyle coach and attends sessions designed to improve lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise.

Jessie said being a LIPP study participant is a time commitment, but the study staff work with her busy schedule as a new mom and working full-time—and the commitment is worth it. When she first started in the study about seven months ago, she went twice a week to appointments, but now she goes to Tufts MC just every Saturday morning to check-in and work out.

Since Jessie started, she said she has learned a lot about how to take better care of her own health, she’s worked hard and seen great results. She was introduced to a new way of eating that worked for her focusing on whole foods, fish, nuts, olive oil and fresh fruits and vegetables. She pays attention to what she eats, goes to the gym about four times a week, and weighs less than she did before she was pregnant. Jessie will be participating in the study until about three months after her second child is born.
Jessie playing with her son months after joining the study.
“I’m so motivated and I feel so lucky,” said Jessie. “For me, personally, being in the study has actually been a life changing experience and given me the guidance I needed to get on the right path, even while being a new mom and working full-time.”

Dr. Catalano added, “We believe the healthy eating and exercise program used in the LIPP study will result in a healthier pregnancy; however, until the study is completed and we analyze the results, we won’t know for sure. In addition, individual results may vary.”

The LIPP study at Tufts MC is still accepting volunteers to participate. To participate, you must have given birth within three months, anticipate another pregnancy in the future and have a willingness to learn about how to practice a healthy lifestyle. To learn more about the LIPP study visit us here or call 617-636-9197.