Start: August 2018
End: August 2020
Why do we need this research?
During labour, if the baby doesn’t get enough oxygen it can lead to long-term health problems like brain damage, or even death. However, the methods we currently used to monitor the health of the baby during labour are not reliable enough. We need better ways to monitor baby’s health, so that action can be taken as quickly as possible if needed to prevent any long-term health problems.
What’s happening in this project?
Our researchers are developing new methods to measure a chemical called lactate in the baby’s body. This chemical increases in the blood if the body isn’t getting enough oxygen. However, blood lactate levels are currently measured by making a small cut in the baby’s scalp while it is still in the womb, which is difficult to do and very invasive. It also only provides a ‘snapshot’ of the lactate level in the blood, rather than a continuous picture of the baby’s health.
Researchers supported by Tommy’s are developing sensors which can continuously measure lactate levels. One way they are doing this is to use a technology called microdialysis, where tiny needles are placed into the skin which can sample the fluid around the cells in the body. For example, people with diabetes can use microdialysis sensors to help them check their blood glucose levels.
Our scientists are now trying to develop a tiny microdialysis sensor, which can be attached to the baby’s scalp in the womb to monitor lactate levels in their body.
What difference will this project make?
If this project is successful, it could provide a new way to continuously monitor the health of babies during labour. This would mean that any problems could be acted upon as soon as possible. This would help to reduce the chances of long-term health problems for babies.
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Tommy's funds research across the UK investigating the reasons for pregnancy complications and loss. If you're interested in being kept updated about our research and news from Tommy's, click here.
More research projects
A recently published article, co-authored by Professor Catherine Williamson from Tommy’s Research Centre at King’s College London, suggests that certain pregnancy complications can indicate future health issues for women.
Tommy’s has received a grant from the UK Government’s Department for Health and Social Care to support the costs of its PregnancyHub information and support services throughout the summer, due to rising demand in the wake of coronavirus.
Although recruitment to some clinical trials had to be paused when coronavirus hit the UK, scientists at Tommy’s Research Centres across the UK are still hard at work, supporting women and families in our specialist clinics and sharing their latest studies with academic journals.
The day before Mother’s Day, and two days before the UK officially went into coronavirus lockdown, Zara Dawson found out she was having a miscarriage. Her third consecutive miscarriage in less than a year, and fourth consecutive loss, after losing her second son Jesse in 2018 to termination for medical reasons.