More research, more support and more babies saved

As we approach a New Year and a new start, we want to reflect on the difference this last year has made to families all across the UK.

Rainbow

December 2016

New Year’s Eve is traditionally a time for looking ahead, for making resolutions and setting yourself targets for the months ahead.

We think New Year’s Eve is also a fantastic time to look back, to reflect and recognise some of your biggest achievements.

2016 has been a huge year for Tommy’s for a number of reasons and we want you to know that we couldn’t have done it without you.

Miscarriage

In April 2016, we were finally able to fulfil our ambition of opening a research centre dedicated to miscarriage. With 1 in 4 pregnancies ending in miscarriage, it’s vital that we find the answers as to why this happens and how we can prevent it.

Our centre will provide treatment and support for 24,000 women and give them the opportunity to participate in Tommy’s research studies.

We’ve already made some significant steps forward.

We have published a study to show that women who experience a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy may experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for months after the loss.

This research demonstrates the importance of better emotional support following a miscarriage, and highlights the value of miscarriage support groups in our local and regional communities.

You can read the research here.

We have completed the characterisation of an enzyme called DPP4, which we believe could be associated with recurrent miscarriages.

This means that we understand the activity and effects of DPP4 in the endometrium (the inner layer of the uterus, where a baby begins to grow).

In the next stage of this study we will explore whether supressing the activity of DPP4 could help prevent recurrent miscarriage. We believe this will help us to develop a treatment for women before they even become pregnant – a potentially groundbreaking discovery.

You can read about our PHD student’s work with DPP4 here.

Our #misCOURAGE campaign that aims to tackle the taboo around miscarriage and encourage people to talk about their experiences went viral this year.

It has been seen by over 16 million people, as well as receiving extensive media coverage by outlets including the Daily Mail, ITV and the BBC.

You can read the stories we empowered women to share here.

In October we were approached by the popular soap EastEnders to provide advice on their storyline about miscarriage.

Leading up to the episode, we also worked with the EastEnders social media team to create three bespoke videos about miscarriage that tied in with the storyline. These videos were viewed over two million times, and resulted in many more women viewing the miscarriage information and support on our website.

You can watch the videos here.

‘I know what it’s like to suffer with miscarriages and how hard it is not to know a reason why or if there is anything to do to help prevent it. I also thank you as there is a chance that [taking part in a trial] could have helped me have my beautiful daughter.’ A patient at our National Centre for Miscarriage Research.

Stillbirth

In 2016, the UK ranked 24th out of 49 high-income countries for high stillbirth rates with one in 240 pregnancies currently ending in this heartbreak. We urgently need to prevent the tragedy of stillbirth but the fundamental causes of stillbirth are still unknown.

Tommy’s Manchester research centre and clinics specialise in understanding and tackling the causes of stillbirth

We have reduced the stillbirth rate in Greater Manchester by 34% (between 2010 and 2016).

You can take a look at our stillbirth impact report here (pdf).

We have pioneered a new method of placental MRI scanning that will better enable us to detect problems while the baby is still in the womb.

Our initial evidence suggests that this method may be able to help us identify the difference between babies that have FGR (fetal growth restriction, a major cause of stillbirth) and those which are small but healthy.

If confirmed, this will enable us to intervene in high-risk cases sooner, while also being able to reassure mothers who have small but healthy babies.

You can read our research on FGR and how it could help identify high risk cases here.

In January 2016 we set up a second Rainbow Clinic, at Wythenshawe Hospital in South Manchester.

The Rainbow Clinic cares for women who are pregnant again following a stillbirth. It provides a high level of support while also collecting information for our research projects.

The addition of a second Rainbow Clinic means that we will be able to increase the number of families who can benefit by 30%.

You can read all about our Rainbow Clinic here.

October also saw the launch of our new pregnancy campaign #MovementsMatter that aims to address the confusion and bust dangerous myths about fetal movements.

55% of women who had a stillbirth noticed their baby’s movements had slowed down or stopped but hadn’t reported it.

Thanks to this campaign, our fetal movements information pages were visited an extra 3,000 – 5,000 times every day over the first two weeks. Our video was viewed more than one million times in the first 24 hours it was posted.

You can watch our video and read about the campaign here.

‘I have no doubt that without the Rainbow Clinic this would not have happened. Emotionally I could not have coped with the pregnancy and medically I would not have received the right treatment or monitoring. We will be forever indebted to the Rainbow Clinic team, and Tommy’s, for the vital care, support, answers and hope we received.’ A mother who attended the Rainbow Clinic after losing her first baby.

Prematurity

Premature birth is the leading cause of neonatal death in the UK. If the baby survives, they may face a lifetime of health problems and disabilities due to this early start.

Worryingly, rates of premature birth have been increasing and now around 60,000 babies are born prematurely in the UK every year.

Our Preterm Surveillance Clinic at St Thomas’ Hospital in London provides specialist support to women who are at high risk of premature birth.

The clinic is attracting increasing numbers of referrals, and patients with increasingly complex problems.

In 2015, we saw 1,889 women at the clinic, and by September 2016 we had seen 1,802 women.

If referrals continue at this rate, when figures are available for the whole of 2016 we will have seen over 2,400 women – a 27% increase on the prior year.

You can take a look at our prematurity impact report here (pdf).

We have proved that we are effective at identifying which women at the Preterm Surveillance Clinic need specialist in-patient care and who will be able to deliver safely as out-patients.

This means that we are able to focus our limited resources on the women who need our care, and reassure those who do not.

You can read Clinical Director Professor Andy Shennan’s take on our prematurity achievements here.

‘The fact that Priya survived pregnancy past viability is purely down to Professor Shennan and his team. Their knowledge means they can correctly identify risk factors and offer treatments that many hospitals, including my local hospital, can't. Words cannot express the level of gratitude I have for the clinic.’ Catherine, a mother who attended our Preterm Surveillance Clinic at St Thomas’ Hospital.

Pregnancy

Tommy’s research centre at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh focuses on discovering ways to alleviate the risks and problems caused by maternal obesity.

Many people think that obesity is a lifestyle choice but the reality is much more complex – it is widely agreed that a mother’s poor diet can programme the children to crave similar food themselves, and face health risks in later life.

Our Edinburgh centre delivers one of the very few specialist clinics for obese pregnant women in the UK.

One in five pregnant women is obese at the time of antenatal booking, and we know that obesity leads to higher risk of pregnancy complications, including stillbirth.

Our clinic has expanded over the past year and we are now providing specialised antenatal care to 25-30 women every week.

We are delighted to report that there have been no stillbirths in women attending the clinic over the past year.

“I just want to thank you for performing my Caesarian section...the whole team were so friendly and reassuring and kind to us, and made the whole experience less daunting. We are besotted with little Jenna, and I wanted to thank you for your care and attention.” A patient at our Edinburgh clinic.

As you can see, by supporting Tommy’s you really are saving babies’ lives and giving more parents the support they need after loss and the chance of the family they have dreamed of - thank you so much..

Here’s to 2017!

Read more about our miscarriage research

Read more about our stillbirth research

  • The team at the Rainbow Clinic

    The Rainbow Clinic

    The Tommy's Rainbow Clinic is part of the Tommy's Stillbirth Research Centre at St Mary's Hospital in Manchester. It provides specialist care for women who have suffered a previous stillbirth or neonatal death.

  • Diagram of baby and placenta in womb

    The Placenta Clinic

    The Placenta Clinic, run as part of the Tommy's Stillbirth Research Centre at St Mary's Hospital in Manchester, is the largest placenta-focused research group in the world.

  • researcher looking through microscope

    Tommy’s Manchester Research Centre

    Tommy’s research centre at St Mary’s Hospital opened in 2001 and is now home to around 100 clinicians and scientists researching the causes of stillbirth.

Read more about our prematurity research

  • Clinician scanning a pregnant woman

    The London Preterm (premature birth) Surveillance Clinic

    This unique Preterm Surveillance Clinic – funded by Tommy's as part of our research in St Thomas' Hospital, London, has won an NHS Innovation Challenge Prize, for its success in reducing the number of premature births in South East London.

  • researcher looking at samples in the Tommy's London centre

    Tommy's London research centre

    Tommy’s prematurity research centre in London is based at St Thomas’ Hospital, where the charity first began. Opened in 1995, it is the first Maternal and Fetal Research Unit in the UK.

  • Nurse monitoring premature baby in hospital

    Research into premature birth

    Around 60,000 babies are born prematurely each year in the UK [1]. These babies are vulnerable – they are born before they have grown to cope with the outside world. Tommy’s is saving lives by researching how we can prevent premature births by finding those at risk early on.

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