Functional Imaging of the Human Placenta by MRI

Pregnancy MRI

The Pregnancy Research Group is conducting a study to learn more about the human placenta.

Our research team has developed a new and safe MRI method to assess the placenta during pregnancy. This study aims to measure blood flow to the placenta throughout pregnancy. In the future, the ability to measure blood flow during pregnancy may alert doctors to situations where blood flow is inadequate to meet the baby's needs as it grows. Being able to better identify women who are at risk of developing a complication may allow doctors to intervene before the complication occurs, resulting in better outcomes for both mother and baby.

The placenta controls the transfer of all the nutrients and oxygen that a baby needs to grow and develop. It is essential to a healthy pregnancy; however, we are still learning about its complex functions. More research on the placenta is necessary in order to understand why pregnancy complications occur, including conditions such as preclampsia, intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), and stillbirth. Find out more about this unique organ here.

What is involved?

This study involves up to 3 MRI scans at OHSU throughout your pregnancy. We will collect part of your placenta after you deliver your baby. You will be asked to provide a sample of blood and urine at each MRI and at delivery. Each MRI scan takes about one hour. The MRI is a tunnel-like scanning machine. While it is open at both ends, the inside is a relatively small space. If you experience claustrophobia or anxiety in small spaces, you may be uncomfortable in the MRI. If you are unsure, you can try out the "mock scanner" at OHSU before deciding whether or not to participate in the study. Contact us to set up an appointment so that we can make sure the mock scanner is available. 

Is MRI safe during pregnancy?

Yes, MRI using a magnet (not X-rays) to obtain detailed images of your body. The study protocol is approved for pregnant women. It does not use special dyes known as contrast agents.

You may be eligible to participate for this study if:

  • You are pregnant
  • You are at least 18 years old

Current Focus as of Spring 2019:

We are currently seeking pregnant women how have experienced any one of the following:

  • pregnancy complication in a current pregnancy (IUGR, preeclampsia, or other)
  • pregnancy complication in a previous pregnancy (IUGR, preeclampsia, pregnancy loss, or other)
  • someone in your family experienced a pregnancy complication
  • history of preterm birth
  • chronic hypertension
  • current use of tobacco, marijuana, or other recreational substances


Qualified participants will be compensated up to $325 for time and travel ($100 for each MRI and $25 for a sample of your placenta). Our study staff can make transportation arrangements for you if you need them.

MRI Images

Your participation in the study will generate unique MRI images of your baby which will be a fun keepsake that you can share with your friends and family. Your images will be provided in one of two formats based on your preference: on a CD or as a downloadable file through

PI: Antonio Frias, MD; IRB#15196


To find out more information and to learn if you are qualified to participate, fill out the online form or call the Pregnancy Research Group's confidential recruitment line at 503-494-8748.