‘This year's increased interest in pregnancy loss is overdue, but very welcome.’

As we approach the end of 2016, Dr Alexander Heazell, Clinical Director of Tommy’s Stillbirth Research Centre, reflects on what has been achieved across the last twelve months.

Tommy's guest blog, 29/01/2016, by Dr Alexander Heazell

Reaching the end of the year gives an opportunity to look back and think about the work that we have done and the parents we have cared for.

It has been another busy year with staff at the research centre in Manchester performing over 4,200 scans for mothers most at risk of pregnancy complications in 5 different research clinics.

The year opened with a tea party for parents who attended the Rainbow Clinic in 2015, this was a wonderful opportunity to meet families again out of the clinic environment. These moments give us all encouragement and drive to develop the Rainbow Clinic service.

In 2016, we have opened a Rainbow Clinic on a second site at Wythenshawe Hospital in South Manchester. We have learned a huge amount by doing this and have been able to increase the size of Rainbow Clinic by 30%.

We have also been able to team up with another clinic in Sunnybrook Hospital, Toronto, who have a similar clinical service to ours; it was great to see how their clinic works and understand that parents have very similar needs in Manchester and Toronto.

We hope that in 2017 we will be able to continue expanding our research clinics, to translate our research into clinical practice which makes a difference to mothers and babies.

It has been great to see the development of some of our research projects.

Our hospital has been active in the AFFIRM study, which investigates whether standardised information and management can reduce stillbirths.

These issues have been highlighted by the Tommy’s #movementsmatter campaign which reached huge numbers of mothers via social media.

This year has seen an increased interest in pregnancy loss, stillbirth and neonatal death; this is overdue, but nevertheless very welcome.

We have contributed to two series of papers in the Lancet and BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth and have spoken to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Baby Loss. This increased recognition has culminated in speeches from the Secretary of State and the Minister for Health committing the government to reducing the numbers of stillbirths.

Perhaps most importantly, the combined effect of all these events has been to keep miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death in the media spotlight which is needed to overcome the taboo and stigma that so many parents experience when their baby dies.

For us, it was heartening that the Secretary of State highlighted the care pathway we have developed with 12 other maternity units in the North-West of England as an example of good practice in perinatal bereavement care.

I know that Christmas is a challenging time for many families who have experienced the death of a child. Many parents feel their loss afresh, with reminders of the child who is not there.

 I hope that everyone gains the support they need from professionals and those around them.

Read our midwife’s advice on looking after yourself this Christmas here.

I would like to sign off by taking this opportunity to thank everyone at Tommy’s, whose fundraising makes our research possible.

If you are interested in the work of our Stillbirth Research Centre, you can read more about their efforts and achievements here.

Dr Heazell wrote a piece about the centre's achievements and what it means to him to be Clinical Director in honour of Baby Loss Awareness Week 2016. You can read his blog here.

If you or someone you love has recently suffered a stillbirth and is struggling to cope, you can read our advice and information on stillbirth here.

Read Tommy's Christmas stories

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