Careers committed to saving babies’ lives recognised in King’s Honours

Professor Arri Coomarasamy, Director of the Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research, and former Tommy’s Chief Executive Jane Brewin have been awarded OBEs in the King’s Birthday Honours for their work to make pregnancy and birth safer for all.

Women and birthing people across the world are less likely to miscarry their child and are less likely to die during childbirth because of research led by Prof Coomarasamy from our centre at the University of Birmingham. 

As Chief Executive of Tommy’s from 2000 to her retirement in 2022, Jane Brewin was committed to building Tommy’s into the organisation it is today: the UK’s leading charity funding research into pregnancy complications and supporting families through every part of the pregnancy journey.  

Over the course of Jane’s 22 years at Tommy’s, we opened 5 national research centres which have transformed maternity care in the UK. Tommy’s experts develop tests and treatments to prevent miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and pregnancy complications. The lives of tens of thousands of families across the UK have been changed as a result. 

Under Jane’s leadership, we launched our midwife support phone line in 2002 and then our online pregnancy information resources. For more than 20 years we’ve helped families to speak directly to our midwives about their concerns and to access evidence-based information to help support healthy pregnancy. 

Jane's OBE follows her admittance by the Royal College of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians in 2022 to the Fellowship Honoris Causa – an award for people who are not RCOG members but have performed an outstanding service to supporting or developing women’s healthcare. 

Our Chief Executive Kath Abrahams joined Tommy’s in February 2022. Speaking about her predecessor’s OBE nomination she says:  

“Tommy’s has come a long way in the past 30 years. We continue to grow, to lead research, and to transform care, and Jane steered us toward becoming the national charity we are today. Her determination to change the way people understand and talk about baby loss, and her resolve to create a safer, more equitable, nation to give birth in - where every family has the best possible chance of taking a baby home - are truly deserving of recognition.” 

Now in our fourth decade as a charity, in May 2023 we launched a new strategy for the future. It builds on the past 3 decades’ work, setting out a vision to stop the heartbreak and devastation of baby loss and make pregnancy and birth safe for everyone, by continuing to grow evidence through research, improve care, end inequities and mobilise our community for change. 

Progesterone saves babies’ lives 

Professor Arri Coomarasamy’s OBE recognises a career committed to saving the lives of women and babies around the world.  

In 2021, NICE – the UK body which produces evidence-backed guidance for healthcare professionals - issued new national guidance on the use of progesterone pessaries for women with a history of recurrent miscarriage. 

The guidance was based on evidence from the PRISM trial, which was led by Prof Coomarasamy and published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The trial found that there was a 15% increase in live births among women with a history of previous miscarriages when progesterone was used if they experienced bleeding in early pregnancy. 

More than 4,000 women in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy took part in the trial, making it the largest ever study on this area, with the results finally - after 60 years of debate between medical professionals - providing solid evidence to support progesterone use in early pregnancy for some women. 

As a result of this research and the issuing of new guidance, which is now followed by the majority of GPs and Early Pregnancy Units in the UK, we estimate that 8,450 miscarriages a year in the UK are being prevented and babies’ lives saved. 

Miscarriage Matters 

As one of the lead authors of our Miscarriage Matters research published in The Lancet in 2021, Prof Coomarasamy is a leading voice in pushing for change in UK miscarriage care. 

With Prof Siobhan Quenby and colleagues, across a series of 3 papers, Miscarriage Matters called for a total rethink of the narrative around miscarriage and an overhaul of medical care and advice offered to women who have miscarriages.  

Our team have a solution – the Graded Model of Care – and are working hard to develop this model into usable guidelines for the NHS so that women and birthing people receive the best quality, most appropriate support, wherever they live, rather than the current ‘postcode lottery’ of good or poor care. 

Saving mothers’ lives across the globe 

Prof Coomarasamy’s OBE recognises his globally significant work in reducing the number of women who die from severe bleeding during and after childbirth – the cause of death for around a third of women giving birth around the world. 

In his position as Professor of Gynaecology and Reproductive Medicine at the University of Birmingham, he led a clinical trial assessing interventions to reduce severe bleeding and improve survival rates for mothers. The results of the E-MOTIVE trial, published earlier this year, showed a 60% reduction in heavy bleeding and deaths among those who took part: evidence which should now help prevent thousands of deaths each year. 

A leader in maternal health 

Alongside his Tommy’s leadership, and teaching and research positions at the University of Birmingham, Prof Coomarasamy is Joint Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Global Women’s Health and a founding trustee of Ammalife, a UK-registered charity with a global mission of reducing maternal deaths in low-income countries. He has led numerous notable trials, published over 190 medical articles, and is a passionate mentor of junior doctors and researchers.   

Commenting on his nomination for Officer of the Order of the British Empire, Prof Coomarasamy said:  

“This is a recognition for the powerful work our research teams do in tackling miscarriage and childbirth related deaths. Every 2 minutes, a mother dies during childbirth somewhere in the world. The impact of our research can be a matter of life and death for mothers and their children. I am delighted that maternal and child health are being celebrated.”   

Tommy’s Chief Executive Kath Abrahams says:  

“As Director of the Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research, Prof Arri Coomarasamy leads our extraordinary team of researchers and scientists in Birmingham, Warwick, Coventry and London as they work to understand and prevent miscarriage and help parents bring much-wanted babies home. 

“It is because of the tireless efforts of Arri and the team that we can firmly challenge the idea that miscarriage is ‘just one of those things’ by developing innovative tests and treatments which have transformed care and saved babies' lives. In 2017 the University of Birmingham named him one of their heroes – and now we're incredibly proud to see him receive much-deserved national recognition.”