Research into stillbirth

When a baby dies after 24 weeks of gestation, it is called a stillbirth. Around 3,500 families a year get the devastating news that their baby is not alive. Our research is helping to change this.

Find a stillbirth research project

In the UK, around 1 in 225 pregnancies end in stillbirth – when a baby dies after 24 weeks gestation. This is equivalent to over 3,430 babies dying every year. Our stillbirth rate is currently 24th out of 49 high-income countries.

Read stories from our supporters about their experiences of stillbirth and neonatal death.

We have information and support on stillbirth here.

The statistics are shocking

  • 9 babies are stillborn every day in the UK
  • 98% of stillbirths happen in low and middle income countries
  • An estimated 4.2 million women are living with depression linked to stillbirth

Read more stillbirth statistics

We need answers, fast

Often, parents are given no reason for their loss, and are left to cope with little support. 

Tommy’s is the largest UK charity funding research to prevent stillbirth. We carry out vital research to find out why stillbirths happen, and how we can prevent them. Rates of stillbirth are falling – but not fast enough. Our research is helping us understand the causes of stillbirth, so we can find the babies at risk in time to help them.

In many cases when a baby is stillborn no cause can be found. The death of these babies deaths remain ‘unexplained’, which can be particularly hard for grieving parents who want to understand what happened to their baby. 

About half of all stillbirths are linked to complications with the placenta.

Our research aims to reduce stillbirth rates by finding the missing links between stillbirth, the placenta and the baby’s growth. Most of our stillbirth research takes place in our Manchester research centre, where we have made great progress in our Rainbow and Placenta Clinics.

Our research focuses on three main areas:

  1. Understanding the causes of stillbirth
  2. Treatment and prevention of stillbirth
  3. Improving care for women at risk of, and following, a stillbirth

We are already making strides towards our goals.

Recent achievements

  • In St. Mary’s Hospital, we lowered the average number of stillbirths by 19% from 2012 to 2017. This is equivalent to 12 fewer babies dying every year.
  • We have reduced the proportion of unexplained stillbirths in the Greater Manchester area from 28% in 2014 to 16% in 2016.
  • In Edinburgh, obese women attending our antenatal clinic were an astounding 8 times less likely to have a stillbirth than women receiving standard care.
  • We are rolling out the excellent care that women get in a pregnancy after a stillbirth at our rainbow clinic to 5 new sites.

Current research projects

Completed research projects

Why our work is so important

  • Story

    When we finally took our daughter home, we cried the happiest tears in the world

    Sharon and her husband Andrew from Manchester lost their son, James, at 29 weeks. Sharon was referred to the Tommy’s Rainbow Clinic at St Mary’s Hospital with her second pregnancy and now has an 18-month-old daughter, Sophie.

  • Gemma and Dave Great North Run Reason for Running


    We miss Betsy every single day

    Our beautiful baby girl was so perfect, I looked at her little face and waited for her to cry to prove that they were wrong, but she couldn’t.

  • Ezra's memorial service flowers


    Healing through giving

    Around 1 in 4 pregnancies in the UK will end in loss. Education and family support specialist, Margaret Pritchard Houston, shares her experiences of baby loss, milk donation, and why mothers should always be given all the options.

  • Baby Kaitlin


    Baby Kaitlyn

    My pregnancy with Kaitlyn was what you would call “textbook”.

Read about our clinics for women at risk of stillbirth

  • 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.


1. WHO (2016) Making every baby count: audit and review of stillbirths and neonatal deaths 2016, World Health Organisation, Geneva, Switzerland,

2. ONS (2017) Vital statistics: population and health reference tables 2017, Office of National Statistics, London, England,

3. ONS (2017) Vital statistics: population and health reference tables 2017, Office of National Statistics, London, England,

4. Flenady V, Wojcieszek AM, Middleton P (2016) Stillbirths: recall to action in high-income countries, The Lancet 2016;387(10019):691–702,

5. ONS (2017) Vital statistics: population and health reference tables 2017, Office of National Statistics, London, England,

6. The Lancet (2016), Ending preventable stillbirths 2016,

7. The Lancet (2016), Ending preventable stillbirths 2016,

8. NHS Choices [accessed 10/01/2018] Stillbirth causes,

9. NHS Choices [accessed 10/01/2018] Stillbirth overview,

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