The role of placental blood vessels in growth restriction and stillbirth

We want to find out why the placentas from babies who do not grow as they should have a smaller network of blood vessels than healthy placentas.

Start: September 2018

End: August 2022

Babies who don’t grow as they should (IUGR) are at greater risk of being stillborn. One of the major reasons that a baby might not grow properly is because the placenta is failing. When this happens, the baby can’t get the oxygen and nutrients it needs to survive and grow in the womb.

The placenta feeds the developing baby

Nutrients and oxygen are transferred from the mother’s blood into blood vessels in the placenta. These blood vessels feed the umbilical cord, which in turn feeds the baby.

We know that babies who do not grow properly have placentas with a smaller network of blood vessels than can be found in healthy placentas. We don’t know if this is because the blood vessels grow and then die off, or if placental blood vessels don’t grow properly in the first place.

We want to find out more.

To do this, we are going to look more closely at the placenta to find out which components influence the growth and survival of the cells that make up blood vessels. Once we have identified which components are important in this process, we will try to develop treatments that improve blood flow to babies so that we can help them grow as they should and reduce the risk of stillbirth.

 

The devastating effect of stillbirth

Stillbirth is devastating for families. We have been gathering testimony about the terrible effect of stillbirth on parents and wider family to raise awareness and make the case that more must be done to bring down the statistics.

'We sat on the bed laughing and joking, pushing the worry away. The midwife seemed to be away for ages. When she returned we were taken to a scan room to be scanned. As we walked in the room I knew something wasn’t right as there were three people in the room already. I nervously lay on the bed and after a few minutes the doctor turned to me and said, ‘I’m sorry but there’s no heartbeat.’

'Those words still make me feel sick to my stomach. I just remember screaming and screaming. I looked to David who sat with his head in his hands. I eventually managed to stop screaming and sat and cried uncontrollably. How could this have happened?'

Shelley, whose baby Joseph was stillborn at 37 weeks

Join the fight against baby loss

Tommy's funds research across the UK investigating the reasons for miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth. We can keep you updated on ways you can support our work. If you would like to join our fight against baby loss and premature birth, click here.

More about Tommy's research

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    Research into health and wellbeing in pregnancy

    In addition to our core work on miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm birth and pre-eclampsia, Tommy’s also funds projects that research the effects of lifestyle and well-being on pregnancy and on the later life of the child.

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    Research into stillbirth

    When a baby dies after 24 weeks of gestation, it is called a stillbirth. Around 2.6 million babies are stillborn each year. Tommy’s research is helping to change this.

  • Nurse monitoring premature baby in hospital

    Research into premature birth

    Around 60,000 babies are born prematurely each year in the UK. These babies are vulnerable – they are born before they have grown to cope with the outside world. Tommy’s is saving lives by researching how we can prevent premature births by finding those at risk early on.

  • Clinical researcher looking at test tube

    Research into miscarriage

    1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage.1 in 100 women have 3 or more miscarriages in a row. Research into this area of pregnancy loss has been underfunded for years.

More stories of stillbirth

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