The Tommy’s Project: understanding how pregnancy goes wrong

Our researchers are collecting information and tissue samples from thousands of women to better understand the causes of complications that can lead to stillbirth or neonatal death.

Start: December 2015

End: Ongoing

Why do we need this project?

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, slow growth, diabetes and premature birth are linked to stillbirth or death soon after birth. Researchers think that there are many possible causes for each individual complication, and that they may also be related.

However, we still don’t know enough about the causes of these complications to be able to diagnose them early and treat or prevent them. We need to build up a better picture of the causes of these interrelated complications, so that we can stop babies dying before and after birth.

What is the Tommy’s Project?

To help with this, our researchers in Manchester set up the Tommy’s Project. This is a ‘biobank’ which provides researchers with samples and data to study the causes of stillbirth and death soon after birth.

Women with either normal or complicated pregnancies donate samples of their placenta, and provide information about their pregnancies. They are approached early in pregnancy, so that we can maximise the amount of information they can provide.

Since November 2018, more than 1,000 women have donated their placenta and other tissue samples for research. These samples are being used by scientists at the Tommy’s research centre in Manchester. The Tommy’s Project in Manchester is also linked with other biobanks at Tommy’s centres across the UK, to form the national Tommy’s Reproductive Health Biobank.

What difference will this project make?

The Tommy’s Project biobank is a vital resource for scientists, enabling them to carry out research which wouldn’t otherwise be possible. By shedding light on complications such as pre-eclampsia, slow growth, gestational diabetes and premature birth, the Tommy’s Project will help us to find ways to prevent stillbirth and save more babies lives.

Join the fight against baby loss

Tommy's funds research across the UK investigating the reasons for miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth.

 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. Nearly 3000 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

    Miscarriage is the most common complication of pregnancy with 1 in 4 women experiencing at least 1 miscarriage during their reproductive lifetime. This is a quarter of all mothers-to-be, a quarter of all families affected by loss.

Stillbirth stories

  • 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.

  • A baby who was stillborn in a crib surrounded by photos and a teddy


    Being physically close with my baby made the loss much more bearable

    For many people, the loss of a baby leaves them feeling shocked, isolated and empty. It is difficult in this traumatic time to realise that later, you may treasure the memories of your baby you create. Mary shares her experience of spending time and making memories with her stillborn daughter, Alana.

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