A study to see if exercise can help prevent pregnant women from developing gestational diabetes has become very personal for research co-ordinator and PhD candidate MJ Ong.
On the day she turned up for her first session with her principal research supervisor, MJ had her own news for Assistant Professor Kym Guelfi. She had just found out that she was pregnant and will give birth to her first child less than a year into her PhD.
Her research is part of The Cycle Study, an NHMRC/Telethon/Women and Infants Research Foundation-funded project led by Winthrop Professor John Newnham, Head of the School of Women’s and Infants’ Health. He and his colleague Adjunct Associate Professor Dorota Doherty are working with academics in the School of Sport Science, Exercise and Health to investigate whether regular exercise can beat the diabetes that some women develop during pregnancy and which can create serious problems for both mother and child into the future.
MJ is co-ordinating the exercise program which involves pregnant women using a stationary bike in their own homes for an hour, three times a week, supervised by a personal trainer.
MJ, an Honours graduate from Sport Science, Exercise and Health, has worked as a fitness instructor and is one of three personal trainers running the program.
“Initially, I was quite sedentary as I was battling morning sickness and extreme tiredness but now that I feel better I do a lot of exercise, which includes working out on a stationary bike,” MJ says. “I also do much the same as the women in the study so, being pregnant myself, I have a better understanding of how they feel during the program.
There is a difference in your breathing for a start. “Having a baby and pursuing a doctorate degree is probably not two things you would think of doing together, but I think it helps with my understanding and appreciation of the research volunteers.”
Sport Science academics Winthrop Professor Bob Grove, Professor Paul Fournier and Associate Professor Karen Wallman are all involved in the study. Graduates from the School, Liliana Balaguera and Louise Smargiassi, share the personal training with MJ.
Assistant Professor Guelfi explained that gestational diabetes appears in some women around the 26th week of their pregnancy, then disappears at delivery. “The mother then has an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and there is up to a 70 per cent chance that any subsequent pregnancies will result in the condition too,” she says.
“The babies born to these women are often very big which can complicate the birth process and they too are at a higher risk of developing diabetes later in life, as well as obesity.”
She said there was evidence that exercise was helpful for people with type 2 diabetes but the gestational form of the disease is not well-researched. Women who have developed diabetes during one pregnancy and are now pregnant again are being recruited for the program and begin 14 weeks of training at week 14 of their pregnancies, after
being tested for glucose intolerance. A further oral glucose intolerance test will be administered (as it is to all pregnant women) at 28 weeks.
The UWA team is hoping to have 200 women take part in the study over the next few years. Professor Newnham said that if the exercise program worked in preventing gestational diabetes, it would have profound benefits for women, their children and future generations.
Article courtesy of UWAnews.
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