The Tommy’s Project: the reasons why pregnancy goes wrong

Our researchers are collecting information and tissue samples from thousands of women to better understand the causes of complications, such as pre-eclampsia, growth restriction, diabetes and premature birth, that can lead to stillbirth or neonatal death.

Start: September 2017

End: Ongoing

Stillbirth rates in the UK remain unacceptably high. We want to understand more about why pregnancy sometimes goes wrong so that we can help keep babies safe in the future.

Pregnancy complications such as pre-eclampsia, intrauterine growth restriction, diabetes and premature birth can be linked to stillbirth or death soon after birth. There are several possible underlying causes for each individual complication, and they may also be related.

We therefore want to build up a better picture of the causes of these interrelated complications.

To help with this, we have been taking tissue samples from women with either normal or complicated pregnancies, and also collecting information about their pregnancies.

Women were approached early in pregnancy, meaning that we could get a large amount of antenatal data. So far, we have recruited over 2,000 women from St Mary’s Hospital, Manchester – 90% consented to donating their placenta and other samples after giving birth to their baby, and we have used over 1,000 placental samples in our research studies over the past two years.

We have also started collecting information from women giving birth at The University Hospital of South Manchester in Wythenshawe.

The terrible 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

  • Three pregnant women sitting in a row

    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.

  • Team of researchers

    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.

  • 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

  • Gemma and Dave Great North Run Reason for Running

    Story

    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

    Story

    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

    Story

    Baby Kaitlyn

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

  • Baby loss submission

    Story

    In that silence I could hear my heart breaking

    When I reached 9 weeks I started to have a feeling that something wasn't right, my symptoms had slowly started fading.

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