Mater Mothers' Research Centre

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Following two years of planning and development, the Mater Mothers’ Research Centre (MMRC)—a centre dedicated to facilitating research projects at Mater Mothers’ Hospitals—was endorsed by the Mater Health Services Board in July 2008.

While dynamic research projects have been undertaken by researchers in fields such as maternal fetal medicine, neonatology, obstetrics & gynaecology, midwifery and nursing for many years, it was this year that Mater’s plans for creating an internationally endorsed research centre for maternity, newborn and women’s health were realised.

The key objective of the MMRC is to conduct nationally and internationally competitive multidisciplinary research which builds on the strength of the clinical services of Mater Mothers’ Hospitals and Mater Health Services as a whole, leading to improved health for women and newborn infants.

There are currently 171 research projects underway at the Mater Mothers’ Hospitals. These involve 41 researchers and cover 11 key areas of inquiry:

  • maternal fetal medicine
  • neonatology
  • obstetrics & gynaecology
  • midwifery
  • nursing
  • physiotherapy
  • social work
  • epidemiology
  • basic science
  • endocrinology
  • paediatrics.

Project examples

Epidemiology of Unexplained Fetal Deaths in Australia

An NHMRC funded study aiming to develop a model that will predict a baby who is at risk for unexplained stillbirth. Unexplained stillbirth is 10 times more common than unexplained death (i.e. SIDS). It is thought that if a prediction can be made, action can then be taken to prevent unexplained stillbirth. By examining information on all births in Australia, this project aims to identify factors that affect the risk of stillbirth, and potential causes of stillbirth.

Gestational Diabetes Study

This is a study focusing on pregnant women who develop the temporary, hormone-related form of diabetes known as gestational diabetes. These women have a 30 per cent risk of developing diabetes over the next 10 years. The Mater Diabetes in Pregnancy Care team is investigating how best to develop preventative strategies to reduce the risk of permanent Type 2 Diabetes in these women. Current research progress includes study of the feasibility of introducing exercise into everyday lifestyles and the relationship of baby's weight to maternal obesity.

Effective screening method to detect Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) in babies, prior to birth

This is a study to develop a screening method that will improve the detection rate of CHD before birth, and evaluate whether this will improve outcomes for babies and their families.

CHD is the most common congenital anomaly in newborns—eight babies in every 1000 are born with CHD. It accounts for around 40 per cent of perinatal deaths with more than half of these occurring in the first month of life.

Despite this, antenatal detection of CHD is low—around 60 per cent of cases are detected before birth in tertiary referral hospitals and in non-tertiary hospitals, the detection rate can be as low as 20 per cent. Early detection of CHD may have the potential to save babies’ lives. When doctors and midwives are aware of CHD they can conduct further monitoring and test for known associated non-cardiac structural and chromosomal anomalies. Early knowledge also helps parents to understand their baby’s needs and be prepared for the treatment their baby is likely to undergo.

Filed under: Mothers'
    There are currently 171 research projects underway at Mater Mothers' Hospitals.

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