Cardiff Met Researcher Identifies Maternal Cardiac Function

​16/02/2016

​A volunteer cycles on a cardiac stress bed whilst a researcher conducts an ultrasound heart scan and monitors cardiovascular measures.​

A researcher at Cardiff Metropolitan University has launched a study to help identify heart differences of mums-to-be during and after pregnancy.

Victoria Meah, who is an academic associate at Cardiff School of Sport, is principle investigator of the study and will use the findings taken during rest and physical activity, to form her PhD thesis.

Her main aim is to examine the effects of exercising during pregnancy, and preliminary results suggest that exercising during healthy pregnancy does not cause any excessive stress on the maternal heart.

The first stage of the study was completed through a series of meta-analyses of previously published cardiac output data during healthy, singleton pregnancies. Information on the subject is already available, but there is a lack of consensus of the pattern in resting heart function during pregnancy.

For her research, Victoria has collated a more overarching analysis of data depicting the heart changes during pregnancy; in order to identify what is normal adaption and also what constitutes ‘abnormal’ adaption to pregnancy - which can be associated with complications like gestational hypertension and pre-eclampsia.

The first chapter of the study can be found in the current issue of Heart, an international cardiology journal published by the British Medical Journal.

The next stage of the study will look into the cardiac response in non-pregnant and pregnant women and post-partum women or new mums, when they are exercising. Heart function will be measured during isometric hand grip and aerobic cycling activity. An isometric hand grip stimulates an increase in blood pressure which is similar to what might happen during resistance exercise or in everyday activities like carrying heavy shopping back from the supermarket. Aerobic cycling, like other physical activities and exercise, stimulates an increase in overall cardiovascular requirements.

Victoria Meah, said: “During pregnancy, a mother’s body changes extensively so that she can give birth to a healthy baby. In particular the cardiovascular system, the heart and its vessels, must adapt in order to maintain a supply of blood to the mother and the growing baby.

​“There is research already about how a mother’s cardiovascular system functions when she is at rest, but currently there is limited research into the cardiovascular adaption during physical activity which impedes our understanding of what a normal response is.

“With this study we hope to identify these adaptions in pregnant women. We will be looking at the cardiovascular system at rest and during physical activity during healthy pregnancy as well as after delivery, for comparison.”

Associate Dean for Research for Cardiff School of Sport, Professor Stephen Mellalieu, said, “Victoria’s project is another example of the World Leading research that is being undertaken by the School’s Cardiac Physiology Research Group.”

The second half of the study is currently being conducted at the Health and Physiology laboratory at Cardiff Met’s Cyncoed campus. The research team is still welcoming volunteers to take part.

In the most recent UK Government Research Excellence Framework (REF) exercise 80% of Cardiff School of Sport’s research was rated as World Leading or Internationally Excellent, and its impact on the world beyond academia and the research environment was entirely rated as World Leading or Internationally Excellent.

For more information on the study or to volunteer to take part, please visit: www.facebook.com/CCEHPregnancy or contact Victoria Meah pregnancy@cardiffmet.ac.uk

To view the first chapter in Heart, please visit: