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ERC ADVANCED GRANT

Top grant awarded to Rolv Skjærven

Professor Rolv Skjærven at IGS receives EU’s ERC Advanced Grant. He will research the long-term effects on women’s health after pregnancy.

Rolv Skjærven portrett
: Rolv Skjærven is the first from IGS to receive the prestigious ERC Advanced Grant.
Photo:
Kim E. Andreassen

Professor Rolv Skjærven at the Department of Global Public Health and Primary Care (IGS) receives EUR 2.5 million in the prestigious ERC Advanced Grant from the European Research Council (ERC).

The purpose of the new research project for Skjærven is to investigate how pregnancy complications affect women's future health.

“An important focus is to understand how different the impact of complications can be for different women, measured by the risk of getting various illnesses later in life, and the risk of dying sooner than one might otherwise expect,” says Skjærven

“This heterogeneity can be due to both biological and social factors, or interactions between different factors. Varying levels of fertility among women is central to understanding the huge degree of heterogeneity within pregnancy and future health.”

Prevention

Early identification of mothers at risk and good follow-up for prevention is self-evident, according to Skjærven.

“But it might be important to find those subgroups of women who are not at high risk given their overall reproductive history, but based on the first pregnancy alone, should be followed up,” says Skjærven.

He refers to the stillbirths in the first pregnancy followed by two or three pregnancies without complications as an example.

Unique health data

In the project, researchers will use information from a number of national registries, the most important of which will be Medical Birth Registry of Norway (MFR), the Norwegian Cause of Death Registry, Norwegian Register of Education and Cancer Registry of Norway.

MFR was started in 1967, so the register now contains information on all births in Norway for more than 50 years, totalling over 3 million births. Mothers from the early years are now over 70 years old, and more than 90,000 women who have given to children since 1967 have died. 

The most common complications of pregnancy are premature birth, stunted growth, preeclampsia and stillbirth.

“Based on preliminary figures, each of these four complications at first childbirth contribute with an 80 percent increased risk of the mother dying before the age of 70. Another clear trend is a sharp increase in gestational diabetes since the 80’s, says Skjærven.

“Virtually all researchers who have previously studied pregnancy and women's future health had their point of reference in the first childbirth. Our strategy is to have a point of reference in the overall women’s reproduction.

“Better and more complete understanding”

According to the Skjærven, pregnancy complications are strongly correlated.

“By using information from the overall reproduction and covariance within each pregnancy, one will get a much better and more complete understanding of how complications in pregnancy can affect women's health.

When examining the overall reproduction, it is surprising how many women have had one or more complications,” says Rolv Skjærven.

World-leading

The ERC panel believed that studies using data from women's overall reproduction can produce results that would constitute a paradigm shift in understanding the correlation between women's reproductive histories and their long-term health.

The panel also highlights the ideas of comparing the different reproductive histories of sisters as a particularly innovative facet of the project.

Prorector Margareth Hagen at the University of Bergen congratulates Skjærven.

“It is also very gratifying for UiB that ERC recognizes that our researchers are world-leading,” says Hagen.