Healthy mothers, healthy babies

These public lectures explore some of the effects of pregnancy complications and preterm birth, as well as interventions that could improve a baby’s long-term health.

Born too soon: improving preterm birth pregnancy care across Aotearoa

Almost 1 in 10 babies in Aotearoa are born preterm. The chance of this happening is different for whānau depending on the region they live in and the ethnic group they belong to. Preterm birth is a leading cause of perinatal death and may also be associated with lifelong disability, and poor health and wellbeing.

The Carosika Collaborative is a national stakeholder-led group working together as a community to help change this. Their shared purpose is to co-ordinate initiatives and champion change that leads to a reduction in preterm birth, improved preparation for preterm birth and equitable outcomes for all pēpē that are born preterm in Aotearoa.

In this Liggins Institute public lecture, Professor Katie Groom and Dr Lisa Dawes discuss the work of the Carosika Collaborative. They focus on specific research projects aimed at enhancing access to and improving the standard of preterm birth care across all of Aotearoa.

Putting the Boffin into Everyday Practice: Inaugural lecture by Professor Katie Groom

In her inaugural lecture, Professor Katie Groom shares her journey from junior doctor and PhD student to senior clinical academic.

She considers some lessons learnt from the (clinical) trials and tribulations of a dual role, along with a vision for research to be part of everyday pregnancy care for all in Aotearoa.

Bloodspots: Inaugural lecture of Honorary Professor Dianne Webster

In her inaugural lecture, Honorary Professor Dianne Webster uses national and international stories from the past, present and the crystal ball to persuade you that baby bloodspots are the key to the highest value, most versatile newborn screening programme ever.

Precision medicine: the next revolution in perinatal care?

Despite the huge advances in perinatal care since Mont Liggins discovered the critical role antenatal steroids can play in improving outcomes for preterm babies, that treatment remains the cornerstone underpinning their care. How could a treatment discovered 50 years ago still be so important? And why have treatments not moved further ahead?

In this talk Professors Frank Bloomfield, a neonatologist, and Justin O’Sullivan, a molecular biologist, discuss whether the next revolution in perinatal care may come from treating babies based on their individual characteristics. With new technology available to determine a baby’s genetic fingerprint in relation to that of the parents, care can be much more targeted. Other individual level characteristics, such as breastmilk, sex, microbiome and the way babies perceive and emit odours, are also proving to have an influence on how we think about providing care for our youngest babies.

Survive to Thrive: Feeding NZ's preterm babies better

The nutrition babies receive from birth influences their lifelong health. And for our smallest babies, what they eat and how they eat can have a significant impact on their developmental outcomes. These days, most babies born preterm survive, but the jury's still out on the best feeding strategies to help them thrive. Find out why from director of the Liggins Institute, Professor Frank Bloomfield, and paediatric dietitians, Dr Barbara Cormack and Tanith Alexander, in this public lecture recording.

It starts with babies: An evening with Dame Jane Harding

Watch a very special public lecture with world-leading neonatologist Distinguished Professor Dame Jane Harding, who was made a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours. Find out how her remarkable achievements brought her to this point and get an insight into her motivations for carrying out research that improves outcomes for newborn babies and their families.

Corticosteroids for better baby health

A New Zealand discovery made 50 years ago is still saving the lives of thousands of babies today. In this public webinar recording, Liggins Institute Professor Katie Groom explains why antenatal corticosteroids are so effective at improving outcomes for our most vulnerable babies.

Better brains or life-long health: is there a trade-off for at-risk babies?

Distinguished Professor Jane Harding, Neonatologist Chris McKinlay and PhD candidate Dr Luling Lin explore the profound questions raised by the latest mother and baby research.

As death and major disability become less common for at-risk babies, the focus is shifting towards supporting them to thrive, but we might have to make trade-offs between their intellectual development and life-long health.

Some evidence suggests that enriched nutrition for preterm babies may be good for their intellectual development but speeds up weight gain, raising their risk of metabolic and heart disease in later life.

What matters most to families? Are there differences between girls and boys? What if costs outweigh potential benefits? This is a fascinating presentation of a new frontier of research.

Brain health in the baby born early

Distinguished visitor Professor Steven Miller from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada, explains why the everyday experiences a premature baby has in a NICU are so critical to longer-term brain development.

Sildenafil (Viagra) – a first ever therapy for fetal growth restriction?

Professor Katie Groom

Learn more about how the main ingredient in Viagra may work as a therapy for babies that are not growing at the normal rate in the womb.

Professor Groom discusses the potential of sildenafil as an in-utero treatment for fetal growth restriction. She also talks about the STRIDER NZ-Aus trial that has been testing this.

In this presentation she summarises the clinical problem, explains how and why sildenafil may work, shows the scientific evidence to support the idea, and demonstrates how she and the team ran the trial with a brief overview of the results.

Period pain to pregnancy weight gain: what’s going on in the female body?

Dr Anna Ponnampalam, PhD candidate Jasmine Plows, Dr Clare Reynolds, Dr Shikha Pundir 

Four women researchers explain what we know about the biology of being female. 

In conjunction with the Royal Society Te Apārangi, the researchers look at what’s going on in the female body. From the problems of period pain, to what to eat during pregnancy, to the discovery that breastfeeding may not be easy, they address issues that affect the vast majority of women in some way and the interventions that could make a difference.

How should we feed preterm babies for long-term health?

PhD candidate Barbara Cormack

Barbara Cormack examines the connection between low birthweight babies, nutrition and long-term development.   

Around two million extremely low birthweight babies are born each year and each one has a high risk of developmental problems, obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Almost all these babies grow slowly in the first month, when it should instead be a time for rapid development and brain growth.

In this ten-minute presentation, Barbara Cormack explains how nutrition affects the growth and development of preterm babies in the long-term. She also looks at why a higher protein intake in the first five days after birth could improve a child’s growth, body composition and neurodevelopmental outcome at two years of age.

What factors affect stress hormones in breast milk?

PhD student Shikha Pundir 

Shikha Pundir is exploring the mysteries of human breast milk.

She is investigating the impact of different environmental, social and biological factors on stress hormones in human milk.

In this fascinating presentation she explains which factors have the biggest influence in the composition of milk and how this could affect the health of breastfed babies.

How can we improve health outcomes for vulnerable babies?

Distinguished Professor Jane Harding 

Learn about how research at the Liggins Institute is changing the way mothers and babies are being cared for around the world.

Professor Harding is a specialist in fetal and neonatal care and her research focuses on the factors that regulate growth before and after birth. She also looks at the long-term consequences of treatments given at birth.

The treatment of low blood sugars in newborn babies is of particular interest to her.