'Seeing women go through such a difficult time puts the need for such research into perspective'

Tommy's funded PhD student Karen Grewal from Tommy's National Centre for Miscarriage Research in London tells us why she chose miscarriage research and where she is hoping it will lead.

PhD Student Karen

PhD Interview, 18/01/2017, by Karen

Miscarriage is by far the biggest cause of pregnancy loss in the UK and sadly it is still the least understood.

Current NHS guidelines mean that women must endure this pain three times before being able to be investigated. This can cause untold heartbreak and lead to lasting psychological problems.

Our pioneering researchers are working to understand the causes of miscarriage and help prevent them. This is being done in the hope that one day no parent will have to experience this pain.

Researcher Karen Grewal is working in our London Clinic to understand whether miscarriage can be caused by an imbalance of bacteria found in the body.

Karen is a 30 year old PhD student who has been working on this project for the last two months, funded by Tommy's National Centre for miscarriage research.

How long you have been working on this body of research and how did you come to be working on it?

I have been working in the early pregnancy unit for the last 3 years as part of my general obstetrics and gynaecology training and regularly counsel women about miscarriage. The lack of understanding surrounding why miscarriages occur is very distressing to women. I became interested in this area through my clinical work and interaction with patients. I officially took time out of my training to pursue research in October 2016 and am working to develop a project that will provide better answers to our patients’ questions. 

Why does this research appeal to you specifically?

I have always been interested in miscarriage research as there are so many questions still left unanswered. Through working in the early pregnancy unit and seeing women go through such a difficult time, it puts the need for such research into perspective. 

What is the long term aim of the work you are currently doing and when do you expect to have reached these results?

We aim to see if an imbalance in the bacteria that live in our body may be linked to miscarriage. We will also investigate a more cost effective way of genetically testing pregnancy tissue so that more women can understand why they miscarried. Currently on the NHS only couples who have experienced 3 miscarriages are eligible for genetic testing, but if we could find a better, more cost effective test then investigations could be offered to more women. 

How long has Tommy’s been involved with the work you’re doing and what impact does the charity have on what you’re able to do?

Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research has funded my PhD since I commenced the project 2 months ago. The charity has been an integral part of the work. 

How do you hope the work your doing will impact on hopefully parents across the nation?

I hope to provide parents with a greater understanding as to why they miscarried. If there is an imbalance in the bacteria that live in our body, then future research might find ways to alter such an imbalance to achieve a successful pregnancy.  

How much interaction do you have with women and parents and how much is based in the laboratory?

This project allows me to pursue work in the clinic and in the laboratory: I divide my time between recruiting patients and interacting with women in the department, and processing samples and furthering my understanding of basic science. 

What does the Tommy’s funding enable you to do that you wouldn’t otherwise have been in a position to?

Tommy’s funding allows me to carry out the microbial tests and genetic tests which form the backbone to my project. Without the funding there would be no results. 

Let’s end on a cheesy one! What’s your proudest achievement to date?

I have always talked about carrying out research into miscarriage and attempting to translate that research into the clinical arena. Hence I feel I am embarking upon something that will be a great personal achievement. However, I think climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and the feeling I had just as I reached the summit was the proudest moment I have had to date. 

If you want to take part in one of our current miscarriage research trials you can find out which trials are currently looking for participants here.

You can read more about the work of our National Centre for Miscarriage Research and how to get a referral here.

Read more about our miscarriage research

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