Maternal-Fetal Medicine Research

Dedicated to advancing care and improving outcomes in high-risk pregnancies, researchers in the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) are leading a broad range of studies spanning basic science to clinical research.

Current research is focused on three primary areas:

  • Clinical Research
  • LifeCodes Study
  • Quality and Safety Research

Advancing High-risk Pregnancy Care Video

Louise Wilkins-Haug, MD, PhD, Director of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), describes research to improve understanding and care of patients with high-risk pregnancies. Read the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Research video transcript.


Clinical Research

  • Outcomes – In order to assess best practices in managing high-risk pregnancies, researchers are studying outcomes in complex medical conditions during pregnancy. These include preeclampsia, intrauterine growth restriction, preterm labor, maternal depression, diabetes, placenta accreta, fetal congenital heart defects, and many other conditions. We are also at the forefront of investigating the effects of environmental contaminants and toxins on pregnancy outcome.
  • Prenatal Diagnosis and Treatment – In the Center for Fetal Medicine and Prenatal Genetics, specialists are able to identify and treat conditions, such as congenital heart defects and twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS). Ongoing research reviewing best practices and outcomes is conducted. Advanced prenatal diagnostic techniques are revealing more information regarding both the fetus and the mother. Studies are examining the role of these tests in diagnosing conditions sooner.

LifeCodes Study

The internationally recognized LifeCodes Cohort is one of the nation’s largest pregnancy cohorts and specimen banks. An extensive biobank of samples, including blood, urine, and placental samples, collected during pregnancy is used to research biomarkers that may be associated pregnancy complications including spontaneous preterm birth, preeclampsia as well as with the effects of environmental exposures on pregnancy outcomes. Researchers in the BWH Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine were among the first in the world to recognize the need for research on the effects of environmental exposures and toxic substances on reproductive outcomes. Our researchers have a record of ongoing publications related to phthalate exposure and pregnancy outcomes.

Read more about Lifecodes research being conducted by Thomas McElrath, MD, PhD, and David Cantonwine, PhD.

Quality and Safety Research

In the Quality and Safety research group, maternal-fetal medicine specialists and general obstetrics providers across Partners HealthCare and other Harvard Medical School (HMS) affiliated institutions collaborate to examine obstetrics quality and outcomes data at national levels. At BWH, data is collected through daily safety rounds, weekly labor and delivery management meetings, and monthly reviews of specific cases. Initiatives supported by this data and BWH funding include an effort to increase rates of vaginal births after cesarean (VBACs) and promote best practices for twin deliveries. The Quality and Safety Research group is supported by grants through the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) to explore quality and safety-related research projects.

Read more about our quality and safety research: correlation between cesarean section rates and Medicare spending.


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