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Research Axes

Fetomaternal and Neonatal Pathologies

Mission and themes

Every year in Quebec, 8,000 at-risk pregnancies expose both mother and child to serious complications. In addition, 10% of children are born prematurely <37 weeks of gestation and 3% have a congenital malformation or a neonatal condition (asphyxia, infection) requiring specialized care.

Prematurity can also cause newborn mortality or, more commonly, long term complications ranging from cerebral palsy to more subtle neurological impairments associated with cognitive deficiency. Lastly, intrauterine growth restriction predisposes to serious adult pathologies including hypertension, atherosclerosis and type 2 diabetes.

The CHU Sainte-Justine is among the most dynamic university hospital centers in Canada in the field of perinatology. The health of the mother and child is at the heart of the hospital’s mission and the CHU Sainte-Justine is positioned as the largest mother-child center in Canada; it has unique expertise in treating mothers with at-risk pregnancies, which represent more than half of the hospital’s 3,600 annual deliveries, and the sickest newborns (1,000 admissions/year, 2/3 of which are prematurity).

In line with this medical need, the axis research themes focus primarily on embryonic and fetal developmental abnormalities, pregnancy and birth complications, and their long-term consequences.

The future of children is determined from conception by the health, foremost, of the mother, the intrauterine environment, and the conditions surrounding birth and the first days of life. The axis interested in this critical period of ontogeny with a more focused interest in organic systems such as the heart, vessels, and brain. Collectively, the goals are to:

  1. identify the environmental and genetic risk factors associated with fetal-maternal complications and congenital and neonatal diseases;
  2. understand the pathophysiological, cellular, and molecular mechanisms underlying these disorders;
  3. develop and validate interventions to change the future of mothers and children;
  4. reflect on the ethical issues surrounding our care decisions sometimes at the limit of human viability.

Over the last few years, multidisciplinary teams have been responsible for many ambitious clinical research projects aimed not only at optimizing the performance of obstetrical departments, but also at creating policies and programs to improve the health of pregnant women and their newborns. The axis builds upon major cohorts such as the Cohort of Quebec Pregnancies (450,000) and Health of Adults born Preterm Investigation (HAPI), to biobanking of samples from rare diseases as well as national networks such as the Canadian Neonatal Brain Platform and international networks (Human Cell Atlas). Their approach conceptualizes health as a continuum that begins with conception and continues into adulthood. 



Fetal development and prematurity

Mechanisms for congenital anomalies

High-risk pregnancies

Bioethics and family study group

About this page
Updated on 10/16/2018
Created on 8/8/2014
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