SVSU professors studying health outcomes in pregnancy

KOCHVILLE TOWNSHIP (WJRT) - (02/07/17) - Helping families be healthier one mom at a time - two Mid-Michigan college professors have made it the focus of an ongoing research project involving pregnant women.

Rebecca Schlaff and Meghan Baruth both teach at Saginaw Valley State University.

Schlaff is an assistant professor in the kinesiology department, while Baruth is an assistant professor in the health sciences department.

Both are expecting babies in the spring.

"It gives you a new appreciation for just how important all this stuff is and I also think that it helps to understand maybe some of the barriers of the things that get in the way," Schlaff said.

Research they are doing now will help other moms just like them down the road.

"Kind of an opportune time where a woman is open to changing their health behaviors, because they know it can impact their offspring," Baruth said.

Their goal is to find the best ways to help women meet pregnancy health recommendations, such as gaining the right amount of weight and getting enough exercise.

What they are doing is called a behavioral intervention.

"So we're not just telling them, 'Here's what you should be doing from a physical activity standpoint and here's what you should eat and how much weight you should gain, now do it'. We're helping them along the way," Schlaff said.

The 50 women in the study are wearing Fitbits and working with a healthy lifestyle coach each week.

It's one-one-one care most moms don't get.

"These women really trust their health care provides, their doctors and their midwives, but those providers are strapped for time," Schlaff said.

Undergraduate students are the healthy lifestyle coaches. They give the pregnant women constant feedback.

It's a valuable lesson for the students as well.

"Them being exposed to research and understanding that research isn't necessarily sitting down in a lab with test tubes, it can be working with people in the community," Baruth said.

Baruth and Schlaff started enrolling women into the study in April of 2016 and expect to be done with enrollment at the end of this month.

The women join the study when they are between 14 and 20 weeks pregnant.

The study follows them until six months after birth, so it'll be at least another year before it's finalized and the information can start helping others.

"We're able to help maybe you know one woman or maybe the mom, but ultimately help the entire family too," Schlaff said.

This first phase of research is just the beginning.

Baruth and Schlaff also plan to expand their research and look into overall health, including mental health and pregnancy.

The professors both earned a three year Braun Fellowship at SVSU, helping them conduct the research.

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