Analysing multiple studies to find ways to prevent stillbirth

Professor Alexander Heazell, Dexter Hayes, Dr Jo Dumville, Professor Tanya Walsh

Tommy’s researchers are drawing upon multiple studies to address questions about stillbirth that have not yet been answered.

Start: March 2019

End: September 2021 

Why do we need this research?

Every day in the UK, nine babies are stillborn – we think this is unacceptable. Tommy’s is working to find new ways to prevent stillbirth from happening. However, it is difficult for researchers to carry out clinical trials to reduce the risk of stillbirth, because such trials would need hundreds of thousands of women to participate. We need to develop new ways to work out how best to prevent stillbirth.

What’s happening in this project?

Instead of setting up brand new trials to investigate how to reduce risk of stillbirth, researchers funded by Tommy’s are looking back at older studies. By gathering data from lots of these studies and combining it, they can try to address some of the questions which haven’t yet been answered.

So far, the researchers have studied the relationship between problems with the umbilical cord and stillbirth. Searching through thousands of research articles, they identified 155 studies to combine and analyse. They found that the risk of stillbirth is increased by multiple loops of the umbilical cord around the baby’s neck, but not with only one loop. They also found that knots or twisting of the umbilical cord also increase risk of stillbirth.

The research team are now carrying out a similar analysis of studies into reduced fetal movements.

What difference will this project make?

By combining the data from many older studies into one analysis, our researchers are revealing brand new findings which could not have been noticed in individual studies. They hope that their work can contribute towards treatment guidelines from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, advising healthcare teams on how best to reduce the risk of stillbirth.


Read stillbirth stories

  • Woman holding baby toy


    Like many others in my position, I questioned myself – was it something I had done?

    Hayley and Martin from West Yorkshire fell pregnant with their first child, Ike, in February 2019. Sadly, their son was stillborn at 26 weeks. Hayley and Martin never found out the cause of Ike’s death, making it even harder to come to terms with their loss. This is their story.

  • Story

    We travelled to our son’s funeral in the car, a tiny coffin between us

    Sharon and her husband Andrew from Manchester lost their son, James, at 29 weeks to stillbirth. Sharon was referred to the Tommy’s Rainbow Clinic with her second pregnancy

  • Story

    Finding strength in vulnerability

    “My experience of baby loss has given me a new definition of self, a new way of seeing, and a new love – one so strong that it made saying hello and goodbye in the same day worth all the pain.”

  • Story

    Our Rainbow

    As part of our ongoing partnership with MAM who donate 50p for every Rainbow Soother sold, Tommy’s sat down to chat with Samantha Jones, founder of the blog ‘Storms and Rainbows’ about her experiences of loss and what the term ‘rainbow baby’ means to her.

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