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.

 

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Read stillbirth stories

  • Mum holding baby up close to her face

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    Gaynor and Ben from Yorkshire were devastated when their daughter Kallipateira was stillborn in 2018. Sadly, their second pregnancy ended in miscarriage in 2019. Gaynor self-referred to Tommy’s Rainbow Clinic in Manchester later that year and was supported by Professor Heazell through her third pregnancy. Their healthy rainbow baby Apollon was born during lockdown in 2020.

  • Esme

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    Stillbirth and explaining baby loss to children

    Frankie's first pregnancy was low risk, largely problem free. At 38 weeks and 2 days, Frankie experienced reduced movements and sadly baby Esme was stillborn. With small children in her wider family, Frankie turned to books to try and explain the tragic loss of Esme - but couldn't find anything suitable. It was then that she created the beautifully illustrated book 'These Precious Little People', for families affected by the death of a baby.

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    Sharon Manatsa from Bedfordshire was delighted when she found out she was pregnant in 2016. Devastatingly, her baby Melkiah was stillborn. Sharon is now determined to break the stigma around baby loss, particularly within Black and minority ethnic communities. This is Sharon’s story.

  • Michael's 2.6 challenge

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