Start: March 2013
End: June 2019
This project is now complete.
Why do we need this research?
Pregnant women are encouraged to be aware if their baby is moving less than usual. This can sometimes be a sign that something is wrong and that the baby may need to be delivered early.
However, most women who report that their baby is moving less go on to have a normal healthy pregnancy and delivery. We need better ways to spot if babies are struggling, so that doctors can intervene early if needed.
What happened in this project?
Our scientists have been developing ways to spot pregnancy complications early on. A lot of pregnancy complications can be caused by problems with the placenta. Our researchers think a substance in the blood called Placental Growth Factor (PlGF) could be a useful to spot these problems early.
The team set up a small pilot trial to understand whether it was feasible to use a PlGF blood test to identify which pregnant mothers were the most in need of urgent care. Mothers who reported reduced fetal movements after 36 weeks of pregnancy were asked to participate, and 216 women were recruited to the trial. All the women had a blood test to measure levels of PlGF in the blood. Half the women were given standard care, and for the other half, the results of their blood test were acted upon – for example, by inducing labour or delivering early by Caesarean section.
The pilot study was successful, showing that it would be possible to conduct a large trial to study the impact of a PlGF blood test on pregnancy complications. A larger trial is needed to study this because the rates of pregnancy complications among the group of women studied was relatively low.
What difference will this project make?
This project lays the foundations for larger studies to investigate whether a simple blood test might help to spot pregnancy complications early. This could mean that women either get reassurance that their baby is healthy, or that they could get the urgent care they need to prevent stillbirth.
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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.
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A BBC News investigation has found that some private baby scanning studios are misleading customers by advertising “reassurance” scans that do not diagnose serious conditions and abnormalities.
In this Q&A, we sit down and chat with with Tom Willmott, a researcher based at Tommy’s Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre in Manchester. He gives a rare insight into a novel and exciting area of pregnancy health research, known as ‘maternal microbiology’, looking at what we can learn by studying bacteria in the mouths of mums-to-be.
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.