Lifelines NEXT provides a foundation for a healthy future of mother and child

We all want to grow old in a healthy way. Here in the Netherlands, men live to be 79 years old (on average) and women live to be around 83 years old. What will this look like in the future?

By means of medical-scientific research we collect knowledge on diseases and their progression so that treatment methods can be developed and improved. Lifelines NEXT is such a research, in which the development of mother and child during and after the pregnancy is examined.  

What is Lifelines NEXT?

Lifelines NEXT is a large study of process of pregnancy and health of mother and child, living in the Northern Netherlands. Currently, over 1.300 pregnant women are enrolled. Lifelines NEXT started in 2016 and is a collaboration between Lifelines and the departments Obstetrics, Pediatrics and Genetics of the UMCG. In their research, Lifelines NEXT wants to discover which factors cause a disease to develop and how this could possibly be prevented. (Source: Lifelines NEXT – additional research | Lifelines Study

Rianne de Roos is one of the participants of Lifelines NEXT. She is 33 years old, lives in Groningen and has a son. Rianne works as a Healthy Ageing Policy Officer at the UMCG and has supported Lifelines NEXT for some time with the execution of communication tasks.  

The first 1.000 days after birth

An important foundation for health development is built during pregnancy and in the first years of life of a child. The first thousand days (from the conception until the second year of life) are crucial for the child's development. In this phase, the brain, the body and the immune system undergo considerable growth and development. (Source: The first 1,000 days

Lifelines NEXT wants to discover why one person develops a chronic disease during the course of their life and another does not. In this research, factors are examined that influence the health development of children, such as the environment, lifestyle and hereditable factors.  

Why participate in Lifelines NEXT?

Rianne immediately decided to participate in Lifelines NEXT when she was pregnant. Due to her job at the UMCG, she already valued the concept of ‘healthy ageing’ a lot. Therefore, she wanted to contribute to the possible discovery of new insights in the area of health. Because ‘‘How beautiful would it be if we know more about medication, prevention, intervention and the entire development of mother and child in the future?’’ 

Collecting data

Lifelines NEXT uses data from surveys, measurements and biomaterials like blood, faeces and breast milk for their research. The participants (all mothers or mothers-to-be) donate this -completely voluntarily- at fifteen fixed moments spread over 1.5 years. Unique is that they can collect several of the biomaterials themselves in their familiar home environment. For those materials that cannot be collected by the participants themselves, a research assistant pays house calls around four to five times.  


For Rianne, the first house call from the assistant was after the first three months of her pregnancy, during which the assistant drew blood and retrieved the faeces that Rianne had already collected. The house calls are executed by the same person each time and take around an hour every visit. Furthermore, Rianne consistently completed the surveys and took samples when this was asked. 

Quick work is required

Unique materials become available only during labour, like blood from the umbilical cord and biopsies from the placenta. When going into labour, quick work is required! The obstetrician collects the materials with the help of a special ‘toolkit’ which the participant received from the research assistant during the last house call before giving birth. The employees of Lifelines NEXT are available 24/7 to pick up the collected materials directly after the birth.  

Collecting materials during birth

Biomaterials from both the mother and the child are collected after the birth. This already starts quite early; one of the first materials that is collected from the new-born is its meconium (the first faeces). Then, a period follows during which data is collected monthly, but this will be less frequent when the baby is six months old. During this last half year, it is useful to write down the fixed collecting moments in your agenda. Rianne for example almost forgot to take a sample of her sons' faeces on one of the planned moments. “Luckily I could still pull the diaper from the trashcan!”

Now, nine months after the birth of her son, Rianne is waiting for the last collecting moment. After that, when her son turns one, their contribution to Lifelines NEXT stops automatically. Rianne happily looks back at her contribution and she recommends other pregnant women to participate!