Ob-Gyn fellow receives prestigious award to study breastfeeding benefits on maternal health

Research shows breastfeeding is good for babies. But is breastfeeding also good for mothers and their long-term health?

Adetola F. Louis-Jacques, MD, a fellow in the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine,USF Health Morsani College of Medicine Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, is focusing her research study on the benefits of breastfeeding and maternal health.

Adetola F. Louis-Jacques, MD, a fellow in the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine,USF Health Morsani College of Medicine Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

To do this, she recently received the 2017 Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) and the American Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Foundation (AAOGF) award from the Foundation of SMFM. She is the only fellow in the country to receive the prestigious award.

Dr. Louis-Jacques received $360,000 to study the influence of lactation on DNA methylation and gut microbiome among breastfeeding women and its impact on their long-term health.

“Breastfeeding not only benefits the baby, but it could also benefit the mom – potentially lowering the risk of heart disease, diabetes, hyperextension and breast and ovarian cancers,” Dr. Louis-Jacques said. “However, there is not enough research to know for sure. So, the award allows me to explore breastfeeding’s long-term effects through epigenetic modifications and microbiome modulation.”

Dr. Louis-Jacques will study the difference in methylation patterns and microbial composition between breastfeeding women and formula feeding women. To compare, she plans to recruit 47 women who are breastfeeding at four to six months after giving birth and 47 women who are formula feeding.

Dr. Louis-Jacques will work closely with her primary mentors at USF Health, Charles J. Lockwood, MD, senior vice president for USF Health and dean of the Morsani College of Medicine, and Maureen Groer, PhD, nurse scientist and Gordon Keller professor at USF College of Nursing. Dr. Lockwood and Dr. Groer will guide her through each stage of this study.

Dr. Louis-Jacques and Maureen Groer, PhD, nurse scientist and Gordon Keller professor at USF College of Nursing.

“This research will be important to maternal health,” Dr. Groer said. “If we find that the act of lactation could have long-term benefits for women and protect their health when they are 50 and 60 years old, that’s just one more calling card that we could show to promote breastfeeding.”

Dr. Louis-Jacques’ award will take effect in July 2017 — running through 2020. The award, funded jointly by the Foundation for SMFM and AAOGF, is given to future academic physician leaders who conduct research in the area of pregnancy.

“Maternal health is my passion,” Dr. Louis-Jacques said. “So, I am excited to spend my next three years conducting such important research that could potentially improve women’s health.”

Story by Vjollca Hysenlika