Nurse researcher at HESE and CHRC is developing pioneering project in the area of Maternal-infant Health in Portugal

Nurse researcher at HESE and CHRC is developing pioneering project in the area of Maternal-infant Health in Portugal

The VitDTracking Research Project is headed by researcher Olívia Barbosa. The objective of this project focuses on the study of the “Effects of Vitamin D on Health Promotion during Pregnancy and its Impact on Outcome Indicators related to Prematurity, in the Alentejo Region”, relating the relevance of maternal vitamin D levels to numbers of premature births that could be avoided. This project is having a lot of impact in the media and is published on the HESE website, SNS, among others.

For the first time in Portugal and probably worldwide, vitamin D levels are being studied in pregnant women to try to understand the link between prematurity and deficiency and insufficiency of this micronutrient. It’s now understood that this phenomenon is associated with adverse maternal and child outcomes, such as intrauterine growth restriction, pre-eclampsia, cholestasis, hypertension and gestational diabetes as one of the largest factors of prematurity.

It was also confirmed that the Portuguese population has a prevalence of genome alterations that give it a lower capacity to produce vitamin D from exposure to sunlight. Based on this data and this gap, the HESE and CHRC research nurse started her project in January 2022, in order to understand how Vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency could affect maternal-infant health.

“The Project in its conception involves carrying out 2 multicenter observational studies in Health organizations in the Alentejo region (Évora, Beja, Portalegre and Elvas) with a total minimum sample of 1000 pregnant women, integrating primary and differentiated health care, and local health professionals, doctors and nurses.”

The project is divided into two studies. The first, related to Vitamin D levels during pregnancy and its impact on outcome indicators related to prematurity and the second, related to Hypovitaminosis D and associated factors, a study with pregnant women in the Alentejo region.

“The lack of epidemiological data on the prevalence of hypovitaminosis D in pregnant women and the existence of genetic polymorphisms in the Portuguese population motivated this research, which could constitute an innovative practice in pre and post-natal surveillance in Portugal. The integration of these biomarkers into pre and post-natal surveillance in Alentejo, one of the regions with the highest sun exposure in the country, will have structural importance, highlighting the action of vitamin D on the immune system and its role as an epigenetic modeller, allowing the fetal development occurs to its full potential, influencing childhood and adulthood”, explained Olívia Barbosa, author and the principal researcher, nurse at Espírito Santo Hospital of Évora and integrated member, as a PhD student of the Comprehensive Health Research Center.

The VitDTracking Research Project is part of the PhD in Health and Wellbeing Sciences and Technologies, in association with the University of Évora, NOVA University of Lisbon and the National School of Public Health, having as advisors the professors Dulce Cruz, André Rosário and Marta Silvestre. The research in Évora also has the collaboration of the local doctor and director of the Obstetrics and Gynecology service, Dr. Fernando Fernandes.