Tommy's Edinburgh Research Centre

Tommy’s research centre in Edinburgh focuses on understanding and lowering the risks caused by obesity and other stress factors during pregnancy.

The local and global impact is significant and important.

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Its full title is the Edinburgh Tommy’s Centre for Maternal and Fetal Health, and it opened its doors in 2008 as part of the state-of-the-art Queen’s Medical Research Institute.

Since 2011, it has been a vital part of the Medical Research Council’s Centre for Reproductive Health. Our work here focuses on the impact of obesity in pregnancy, as well as other stressors such as depression and inflammation. We aim to help women with severe obesity to have safe and healthy pregnancies.

Our Metabolic Antenatal Clinic, which provides the infrastructure for most of our work on obesity in pregnancy, has become a template for similar clinics around the country. It provides what we believe to be the optimal clinical care for obese pregnant women.

Last year, women attending the Tommy’s clinic were an astounding eight times less likely to have a stillbirth than women attending clinics not specialised in helping obese women.

Following the success of our Metabolic Antenatal Clinic, we opened our Preterm Birth Clinic in 2016; the first of its kind in Scotland. The aim of the clinic is to continue our work in reducing preterm birth rates and late miscarriage rates, to improve the quality of care for women and to develop our expertise in managing complex cases.

Our work has been cited in national clinical guidelines, and Tommy’s researchers sit on bodies that influence clinical practice nationwide. This means that our research directly impacts women across the UK, both through our own clinics and through improving practice guidelines. In 2017, Tommy’s Edinburgh Centre published over 62 papers in the pregnancy field.

The centre is led by Jane Norman with a team of around 30 dedicated researchers, midwives and support staff.

The Tommy’s team have been busy! Here are some of our highlights:

  • Rates of stillbirth in Edinburgh fell from 4.4 to 3.1 per 1,000 after introduction of the AFFIRM intervention, a care package designed to raise awareness of the importance of babies’ movements in the womb.
  • In the largest ever placebo-controlled trial of metformin in pregnancy, we found that it is safe to take during pregnancy, but there is no value in treating women who do not have gestational diabetes.
  • In 2017, we published a paper in the BMJ which showed that obese pregnant women who attended our clinic had significantly lower rates of stillbirth compared to BMI-matched women who did not attend.

Read more about the research taking place at our Edinburgh centre.

Current research projects

Completed research projects

Professor Jane Norman is to be congratulated for developing an outstanding and cohesive team that tracks the biological and clinical consequences of maternal-placental-fetal ‘stressors’ as they present as pregnancy complications. The team is multidisciplinary, linking more classical areas of pregnancy research to less-investigated areas such as maternal mental health.

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Lecture from Professor Jane Norman on pregnancy research in Edinburgh