SEATTLE, Sept. 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Institute of
Child Health and Human Development division of the National Institutes of
Health (NIH) has awarded Michelle A. Williams, Sc.D., a $2.9 million grant
for a five-year research project to examine possible linkages between the
serious pregnancy complication known as preeclampsia and migraine.
Dr. Williams is a co-founder and co-director of Swedish's Center for
Perinatal Studies and one of the world's leading authorities on
preeclampsia and other pregnancy concerns. She is also a professor of
Epidemiology at the University of Washington.
The research project, titled "A Prospective Cohort Study of Migraines,
Platelet Activation and Preeclampsia," will be conducted by Dr. Williams
and her co-investigator Sheena Aurora, M.D., a migraine specialist with the
Swedish Pain and Headache Center. Together they will work with experts at
the Puget Sound Blood Center.
The goal of the research is to evaluate whether, and to what extent, a
maternal pre-gestational history of migraines and migraine symptoms during
early pregnancy are associated with the risk of preeclampsia.
Preeclampsia is a vascular disorder characterized by high blood
pressure and the presence of protein in the urine starting around
mid-pregnancy. It occurs in up to 8 percent of all pregnancies and, in
addition to other hypertensive disorders, is the leading global cause of
maternal and infant illness and death.
Migraine is a common chronic-episodic disorder characterized by severe,
debilitating headaches. It is often accompanied by nausea and sensitivity
to activity and/or external stimuli. Between 14 percent to 25 percent of
women suffer from some form of migraine, which is more common during
"There have been a few reports in the medical literature of connections
between preeclampsia and migraine," said Dr. Williams. "If we can confirm a
definitive link and identify women at higher risk of preeclampsia early
enough, then we can monitor them and intervene when necessary."
Starting this fall, Swedish will enroll approximately 2,000 women who
are in their first trimester of pregnancy from obstetrics clinics
affiliated with the medical center. As part of the study protocol, women
who screen positive for migraine or indicate they have experienced it will
have a follow-up interview with Dr. Aurora to confirm the diagnosis, and
then be interviewed about their medical history. Enrolled women will be
followed through to delivery and information will be collected during
in-person interviews using study questionnaires.
"We'll collect blood samples during routine prenatal exams, in part, to
evaluate the role of platelet aggregation and activation in preeclampsia,"
said Dr. Williams. "We're trying to go way beyond asking women to
self-report and look at specific bio-markers in the blood."
Platelets, a key element of blood clotting, are only activated when
needed. For unclear reasons, higher clotting levels have been reported in
migraine sufferers and women with preeclampsia. "That suggests a
connection, but we need to test that hypothesis thoroughly," Dr. Williams
noted. "Only then can we develop conclusions that have medical value and
can be acted on."
The research will also evaluate what prescription drugs study subjects
take for migraines to determine if there are any clear connections between
specific drugs and pregnancy outcomes.
"There is important public health significance to this research," said
Tanya Sorensen, M.D., co-director of Swedish's Center for Perinatal
Studies. "Migraine is treatable and understanding it better may help
clinicians reduce the significant problems associated with preeclampsia."
Earlier this year, Dr. Williams was awarded a $495,554 grant from the
March of Dimes Foundation to fund a three-year research project to identify
pre-conceptional risk factors and biological markers of preeclampsia and
preterm delivery in China.
Swedish is the largest, most comprehensive nonprofit health provider in
the Greater Seattle area. It is comprised of three hospital campuses -
First Hill, Cherry Hill and Ballard - a freestanding emergency department
and specialty center in Issaquah, Home Care Services, and the Swedish
Physician Division - a network of about 40 primary-care and specialty
clinics located throughout King County. In addition to general medical and
surgical care, Swedish is known as a regional referral center, providing
specialized treatment in areas such as cardiovascular care, cancer care,
neuroscience, orthopedics, high-risk obstetrics, pediatrics, organ
transplantation and clinical research. For more information, visit
SOURCE Swedish Medical Center