My research program is targeted towards understanding factors related to fertility, early pregnancy biology and pregnancy outcomes, with the ultimate goal of improving the health of women and children. My research interests have focused on 1) investigating environmental and nutritional exposures that can influence fertility or early pregnancy, 2) describing early pregnancy events that are poorly understood and investigating their associations with pregnancy outcomes, 3) developing high-quality and innovative research methods for perinatal epidemiologic research.
Subfecundity (difficulty conceiving a pregnancy) is a pressing public health problem that affects approximately 6.7 million U.S. women with 1.5 million estimated to be infertile. Factors that affect fertility are not well-understood. I have investigated the influence of environmental chemicals (phthalates and phenols) and nutritional factors (vitamin D) on fertility. Vitamin D is hypothesized to influence both fertility and early pregnancy, making it an ideal exposure for someone with my background and interests. If vitamin D is important for reproductive function it would be easy to assess clinically, and serve as a low-cost intervention for regulating menstrual cycles and improving fertility. I have published three studies showing a higher odds of irregular or long menstrual cycles in women with lower 25(OH)D. Moreover, high levels of vitamin D were associated with improved fertility. This research suggests that fertility may be improved by increasing women's vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is a low-cost, widely available supplement that could shorten the time it takes a woman to conceive, saving her time and the costs of infertility evaluations or treatments. My research will further explore this possibility.
In addition to these primary research projects I am working on an investigation of microRNA and early placental development. MicroRNA (miRNA) are small non-coding RNA that regulate gene expression. I also work with colleagues in Norway to investigate the placenta - how exposures influence placental development and how placental development may be influenced by pregnancy complications. Other Norwegian datasets can be used to investigate childhood health outcomes such as cerebral palsy and neurodevelopment.
Infertility, Female; Pregnancy; Reproduction; Vitamin D
Epidemiology Methods; Reproduction; Perinatal/Prenatal Health