VANCOUVER -- Two new studies relating to pregnancy and breastfeeding are offering new insight about speed bumps and fat intake.

The papers, both out of the University of British Columbia Okanagan, explore separate issues. One investigates how animal fat intake by breastfeeding parents can support a baby’s ability to fight off disease, and the other provides insight on the potential harms of speed bumps for pregnant people and their fetuses.

Fat intake

The research on dietary fat intake, by biochemistry researchers Dr. Deanna Gibson and Dr. Sanjoy Ghosh, along with molecular biology researcher Dr. Wesley Zandberg, used mice to explore how the mother’s consumption of different types of fat impacts her offspring and its gut microbiomes and therefore its susceptibility to disease.

The study suggests that the type of fat consumed by a mother who is breastfeeding could impact an infant's intestinal microbial communities, immune development and disease risk.

Specifically, milk fat and saturated fats, during the pre-and postnatal period might improve a baby’s protection against infectious intestinal disease during adulthood, particularly when combined with a source of omega-3 fatty acids, or, as the research refers to them – n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.

“Our findings challenge current dietary recommendations and reveal that maternal intake of fat has transgenerational impacts on their offspring’s susceptibility to intestinal infection, likely enabled through microbe-immune interactions,” said Gibson.

The findings stand in contrast to Health Canada’s recommendations on fat intake for parents who are breastfeeding babies. The researchers are now calling on Health Canada to update the guidelines. Current recommendations say nursing mothers should replace foods high in saturated fat with foods that are high in omega-3 and omega-6 fats – but this new research found that eliminating the saturated fat for only omega-3 and omega-6 fats had a negative impact.

“Given that (a mother’s consumption of omega-3 and omega-6 fats)...worsened disease outcomes in postnatal diet studies, in our views, these recommendations should be reconsidered,” Ghosh said.

Slow down on speed bumps

In other research, an engineer from UBCO has found that accelerating over speed bumps poses a danger for pregnant women and their fetuses. As a result, he’s urging drivers to slow down if there’s a pregnant person on board.

“There is lots of research about the importance of movement for women during pregnancy,” said Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Hadi Mohammadi.

“Our latest research looked specifically at the impacts of sudden acceleration on a pregnant woman.”

Mohammadi created modelling based on data from crash tests and the fundamental dynamic behaviours of a pregnant woman. The results? Driving quickly over a speed bump can cause minor injuries to a fetus’ brain during the third trimester of pregnancy. It can also cause an abnormal fetal heart rate, and abdominal pain for the pregnant person and uterine contractions – which itself can lead to further complications.

Occupants in a vehicle, especially pregnant people, are subjected to relatively large forces suddenly and over a short period when a vehicle accelerates over a speedbump, said Mohammadi.

The research took car speed and speed bump size into account. Going over a speed bump “can cause a drag on the uterus as it goes up and then down, and the fact that all this movement puts pressure on the amniotic fluid that is protecting the fetus,” reads a UBC news release on the research.

Mohammadi advises that drivers with a pregnant person on board slow their vehicle down to than 45 km/h or less when hitting a speed bump, but preferably down to 25 km/h to reduce risk to the fetus.

He hopes the findings can help researchers better understand how a pregnant woman and her fetus are subjected to risk while driving on bumpy terrain, and his end goal is to make car travel safer for pregnant people.