“she MATTERS”: Improving Cardiovascular Health in New Mothers

The “she MATTERS” (iMproving cArdiovascular healTh in new moThERS) project aims to understand if a breastfeeding intervention can improve blood pressure and markers of metabolic risk in women with recent hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (HDP). Pregnancy complications are sex-specific risk factors for premature cardiovascular disease (CVD) and stroke. Breastfeeding may be protective against development of hypertension and metabolic syndrome. Information gained from this program will inform personalized sex- and gender-specific approaches to CVD risk management.

This page provides information regarding the present and past feasibility project “BP-MOM” which led to the “she MATTERS” program. If you are a current participant in our “BP-MOM” study, you will be happy to know that this will serve as your primary link to any updates.

Please explore this page and if you have any questions do not hesitate to contact us!

Dr. Natalie Dayan, Principal Investigator.
Dr. Natalie Dayan, Principal Investigator.

BP-MOM Pilot Study

BP-MOM (Breastfeeding & blood Pressure patterns in MOthers with recent hypertensive coMplications of pregnancy)

Breastfeeding may lower blood pressure and improve markers of cardiovascular health in the mother. Interventions designed to increase women’s confidence about breastfeeding have been effective in healthy postpartum women, but it is not known whether these types of interventions are helpful for women who have had preeclampsia or high blood pressure in pregnancy. This is an important question to answer, since such women may derive substantial benefits from breastfeeding.

In this study, following childbirth, breastfeeding mothers who have had preeclampsia or high blood pressure during pregnancy were introduced to the BP-MOM study. All eligible, consenting women were randomly allocated to the intervention group (Breastfeeding Self-Efficacy Intervention (BSEI)) or control group (standard postpartum care). Participants allocated to the intervention group received standard postpartum care plus individualized breastfeeding self-efficacy enhancing sessions with a trained registered nurse. Participants in the control group received standard in-hospital and community postpartum care.

All participants were asked to complete questionnaires about their current and past health. Over the course of the study, participants in both groups were asked to fill out questionnaires while in hospital using a computer tablet, and at home via internet. They also had follow-up visits at 3 months, 6 months and 12 months postpartum where they were weighed and measured and, had their blood pressure checked.

The main purpose of this pilot study was to assess the feasibility of the BSEI in mothers with HDP. It included a small number of women in order to see whether a larger study (she MATTERS) will be feasible and if so, how it should be designed.

“she MATTERS” Project

What is the “she MATTERS” project?

Women who experience complications during pregnancy such as high blood pressure in pregnancy or preeclampsia or delivering a pre-term infant are at risk for high blood pressure and heart disease later in life. These women may also have trouble with breastfeeding their infant. Breastfeeding has been shown to improve infant health. Breastfeeding can also improve the mother’s health by lowering blood pressure, facilitating weight loss and improving cholesterol and blood sugar. Breastfeeding interventions can help women continue breastfeeding but are yet to be tested in women with high blood pressure in pregnancy, since these women may be more likely to stop breastfeeding early.

Currently, there are no accepted medications or interventions to prevent elevated blood pressure and heart disease markers of risk after a complicated pregnancy. Breastfeeding seems to lower blood pressure in the general population but has not been studied in a rigorous trial. So, this study has two unique aspects: (1) it may help some women breastfeed and (2) it may help lower blood pressure without medication.

What is the goal of the “she MATTERS” project?

The goal is to test a nurse-led breastfeeding intervention in women who had high blood pressure problems in pregnancy. We will test whether this intervention improves the breastfeeding practices in these women and will also test whether this reduces blood pressure. In the long-term, we will explore whether this helps to lower the chance of being hospitalized with heart disease or stroke post-partum. High blood pressure problems in pregnancy are related to heart disease and stroke in later life. We are hoping to prevent some heart disease or stroke events in women by improving blood pressure and general health after a complicated pregnancy.

Who can participate in the “she MATTERS” project?

Women who had high blood pressure in pregnancy will be invited to participate from two sites in Quebec and one in Ontario and will be randomly divided into two groups. One group will receive the nurse-led breastfeeding intervention in addition to receiving usual clinical care whereas the other will receive usual clinical care. Study outcomes will be assessed by completion of questionnaires and by measuring blood pressure and blood tests. The study will be carried out and overseen by a team with expertise in maternal health.

What are the next steps for the “she MATTERS” project?

While we continue to collect and analyze the rich data collected from the “BP-MOM” study we will use this information in the development of the “she MATTERS” project.

Team members of the “she MATTERS” Project

MUHC | McGill University Health Centre
Montreal, Quebec
Name
Role
Principal Investigator
Co-Investigator
Co-Investigator
Co-Investigator
Co-Investigator
Co-Investigator
Collaborator
Collaborator
Trainee
Rita Zakarian, M.Ed.
Research Coordinator
Angelina Fiorda, RN
Research Nurse
SMH | St. Mary’s Hospital
Montreal, Quebec
Name
Role
Principal Investigator
KGH | Kingston General Hospital
Kingston, Ontario
Name
Role
Principal Investigator
UofT | University of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario
Name
Role
Co-Investigator

Media coverage of the “she MATTERS” Project

Dr. Dayan’s work has been covered in media interviews and stories by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Montreal Gazette, La Presse Canadienne and CTV News Montreal. You can scroll down and click on the links below to learn more.

Contact information for the “she MATTERS” Project

Natalie Dayan, MD, M.Sc., FRCPC
Natalie Dayan, MD, M.Sc., FRCPC

Principal Investigator

Rita Zakarian, M.Ed.
Rita Zakarian, M.Ed.

Clinical Research Coordinator

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