Reducing risk during pregnancy and childbirth

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Anna-Karin Wikström researches pregnancy-related complications, especially preeclampsia. Two important lines of her research involve registry studies of risk factors during pregnancy and childbirth, and MRI studies of the placenta and the maternal brain during preeclampsia.

Anna-Karin Wikström, Professor of Obstetrics at the Department of Clinical Sciences, Danderyd Hospital

Professor Anna-Karin WikströmAnna-Karin Wikström wants to help reduce the risk of complications during pregnancy and childbirth, and improve the treatment of those affected. Much of her research involves epidemiological studies of different risk factors.

“Obesity is one such factor,” says Professor Wikström. “We know that severely overweight women run a five-fold risk of preeclampsia. Another factor that has interested me is the taking of snus (a dipping tobacco product), since there has been no research on the effect of snus on pregnancy.”

Many women change from cigarettes to snus when pregnant, Professor Wikström adds, but her research shows that snus also entails an increased risk of serious complications – including fetal death, retarded growth and preterm birth.

Professor Wikström is a member of the steering committee for the new National Quality Registry for Pregnancy, which she hopes will be important to both care and research.

“I’d like to see more randomised studies in perinatal care and the registry offers good opportunities for this,” she says. “The first study, on postterm pregnancy, is already under way.”

Professor Wikström also researches the function of the placenta and its role in preeclampsia.

“I use MR imagery to study placental perfusion and metabolism. We find that cases of early preeclampsia are usually caused by the failure of the placenta, while late preeclampsia has more complex causes.”

Text: Anders Nilsson, first published in “From Cell to Society” 2016.