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Women’s Health

Epidemiology of Reproductive Health

Donna D. Baird, Ph.D.
Donna D. Baird, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator

Tel (919) 541-2786
Fax (919) 541-2511

Curriculum Vitae (  Download Adobe Reader
P.O. Box 12233
Mail Drop A3-05
Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27709
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Research Summary

The Women’s Health Group—headed by Donna D. Baird, Ph.D.—uses the tools of reproductive epidemiology to address women's reproductive health issues. It combines epidemiologic methods development with research of public health concern. This research has focused on:

  • fertility and early pregnancy
  • epidemiology of uterine fibroids

The Early Pregnancy Study, a longstanding collaboration between Baird, Clarice Weinberg, Ph.D., and Allen Wilcox, M.D., Ph.D., was a prospective cohort study conducted in the 1980s that was designed to determine the risk of early loss of pregnancy among healthy women. Participants collected daily urine specimens during the menstrual cycles when they were trying to conceive and also during the first eight weeks of gestation for those who became pregnant. Urine was analyzed for human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), estrogen and progesterone metabolites and luteinizing hormone (LH) to identify ovulation and implantation. These markers served as benchmarks for studying fecundability or fertility and corpus luteum rescue. The researchers considered the feasibility of measuring urinary biomarkers of exposures, such as bisphenol A and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that have been identified as reproductive toxicants in laboratory animals.

Baird and colleagues conducted the NIEHS Uterine Fibroid Study which screened randomly selected participants, 35-49 years of age, for fibroids using transvaginal ultrasound. The collaborators described the prevalence of these tumors in black and white women (Baird et al., 2003) and are analyzing the data to identify risk factors. As in laboratory animal studies of fibroids (Walker et al., 2001), parity is protective, and the group hypothesized that postpartumuterine remodeling could clear existing lesions from the myometrium (Baird et al, 2003). Also, confirming laboratory animal studies, they found an increased risk associated with prenatal diethystilbestrol (DES) exposure (Baird and Newbold, 2005). Study participants were followed to assess the health consequences of fibroids, with a final follow-up being completed in 2005. Data on vaginal bleeding confirmed previous studies that showed increased risk of heavy bleeding with increased fibroid size, but contrary to published reports, non-submucosal fibroids were associated with elevated risk to the same extent as submucosal fibroids (Wegienka et al., 2003). Other fibroid research includes describing fibroid growth and postpartum uterine regression.

Baird received a B.A. from Macalester College, a Ph.D. in evolutionary ecology from the University of Minnesota and an M.P.H. in epidemiology from the School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She did a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Biopolitical Research at Northern Illinois University and a year at the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study before coming to NIEHS in 1983. Baird currently serves as a Principal Investigator at NIEHS.


  • Dietary Soy Study
  • Early Pregnancy Study
    ( The Early Pregnancy Study provides a detailed look at ovulation, conception and early pregnancy for a group of 221 women who provided daily diary and urine specimens before and during early pregnancy.
  • Fibroid Growth Study
    ( The Fibroid Growth Study examines the variation in fibroid growth, the biological differences between growing and non-growing fibroids and the relationship between fibroid growth and symptom severity.
  • Postpartum Uterine Regression Study
    ( The Postpartum Uterine Regression Study documents any fibroids present in early to mid-pregnancy and measures fibroid size after postpartum uterine regression. Investigators hypothesize that small fibroids will have disappeared, and large fibroids will remain essentially unchanged in size.
  • Uterine Fibroid Study
    ( The Uterine Fibroid Study was designed to determine the prevalence of fibroids, identify risk factors for fibroids, identify biological changes in tumor tissue and describe women's experience of symptoms and their change over time.

Selected Publications

  1. Baird DD, Weinberg CR, McConnaughey DR, Wilcox AJ. Rescue of the corpus luteum in normal human pregnancy. Biol Reprod 68:448-456, 2003. [Abstract] ( Exit NIEHS [download the PDF] ( Exit NIEHS
  2. Wegienka G, Baird DD, Hirtz-Picciotto I, Harlow SD, Steege JF, Hill MC, Schectman JM, Hartmann KE. Self-reported heavy bleeding associated with uterine leiomyomata. Obstet Gynecol 101:431-437, 2003. [Abstract] (" Exit NIEHS [download the PDF] ( Exit NIEHS
  3. Baird DD, Dunson DB, Hill MC, Cousins D, Schectman JM. High cumulative incidence of uterine leiomyoma in black and white women: Ultrasound evidence. Am J Obstet. Gynecol 188:100-107, 2003. [Abstract] ( Exit NIEHS [Full Text] ( Exit NIEHS [PDF] (  Download Adobe Reader Exit NIEHS Website
  4. Baird DD. Invited commentary: Uterine leiomyomata–We know so little but could learn so much. Am J Epidemiol 159:124-126, 2004. [Abstract] ( Exit NIEHS [download the PDF] ( Exit NIEHS
  5. Baird DD, Newbold RN. Prenatal diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposure is associated with uterine leiomyoma development. Reprod Tox 20:81-84, 2005. [Abstract] ( Exit NIEHS [Full Text] ( Exit NIEHS [PDF] (  Download Adobe Reader Exit NIEHS Website
  6. Wilcox AJ, Skjaerven R, Baird DD. Men's body mass index and reduced fertility: A nationwide population-based study. Human Reproduction (Oxford, England) 2007 9:2488-2493. [Abstract] ( Exit NIEHS
  7. Jukic AMZ, Weinberg CW, Baird DD, Wilcox AJ. Life-study and reproductive factors associated with follicular phase length. Journal of women's health (2002) 2007 16(9):1340-1347. [Abstract] ( Exit NIEHS
  8. Baird DD, Travlos G. Obesity and insulin-like growth factor-I in African Americans and whites. Cancer epidemiology, biomarkers & prevention : a publication of the American Association for Cancer Research, cosponsored by the American Society of Preventive Oncology 2007 16(7):1526-1526. [Abstract] ( Exit NIEHS
  9. Jukic AMZ, Weinberg C, Wilcox AJ, McConnaughey DR, Hornsby PP, Baird DD. Accuracy of reporting of menstrual cycle length. American journal of epidemiology 2008 167(1):25-33. [Abstract] ( Exit NIEHS
  10. Nepomnaschy PA , Weinberg CR, Wilcox AJ, Baird DD. Urinary hCG patterns during the week following implantation. Human reproduction (Oxford, England) 2008 23(2):271-277. [Abstract] ( Exit NIEHS

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Last Reviewed: December 19, 2008