Tommy’s Manchester Research Centre

Tommy’s research centre at St Mary’s Hospital opened in 2001 and is now home to around 100 clinicians and scientists researching the causes of stillbirth, and how to prevent it.

researcher looking through microscope

Around 3,500 babies were stillborn in the UK in 2015. From 2012 to 2017, Tommy’s research on stillbirth has helped decreased the average stillbirth rate by 19% in St. Mary’s Hospital. This is equivalent to 12 fewer babies dying every year.

But this isn’t enough. Over 3,000 babies are stillborn per year, but less than 10% of stillbirths are due to a pre-determined genetic condition, and therefore unpreventable. That’s why we continue to research how and why stillbirths happen, so that we can save more babies’ lives every year.

We opened the Manchester centre in 2011 with a new Stillbirth Research Programme which focusses on:

• Understanding the causes of stillbirth and developing new diagnostic tools

• Preventing stillbirths by identifying babies at risk

• Developing new national guidelines for health professionals.

The Manchester centre works very closely with the other Tommy’s centres in Edinburgh and London, as well as collaborating with many overseas researchers.

Up to 65% of stillbirths are due to problems in the placenta, with fetal growth restriction one of the leading causes of stillbirth. The Tommy’s Placenta Clinic was therefore opened up in Manchester, as part of our Stillbirth Centre, which combines specialised antenatal care for pregnancies affected by fetal growth restriction with frontline research into why the condition occurs and how it might be treated. Meanwhile, the Rainbow Clinic was opened to care for women pregnant after a previous stillbirth. It started out as a small clinic, but as we started to care for more and more parents we opened a second Rainbow Clinic at Wytheshawe hospital too.

Find out more in our interview with the Clinical Director of the Tommy's centre, Dr Alex Heazell.

Read more about what we are doing to tackle stillbirth in our Stillbirth Impact Report (pdf).

2016-7 Research Highlights

- Dr Alex Heazell and Dr Edward Johnstone are leading a national evaluation of the NHS England Saving Babies’ Lives Care Bundle.

- We have developed and tested an exciting new way of looking at the placenta while the baby is growing using Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI.

- The MAMAs study is looking for ways of helping older mothers to have healthy pregnancies. Researchers found that placentas in older women were under more stress, which may stop them working normally.

- Tommy’s researchers have found that when haemoglobin escapes from a baby’s cells, it can make it hard for blood to flow through the placenta. This vital work has the potential to find new drugs that will prevent stillbirth.

Read more about our stillbirth research projects in Manchester.

Current research projects

Completed research projects

Read more about our stillbirth research

  • The team at the Rainbow Clinic

    The Rainbow Clinic

    The Tommy's Rainbow Clinic is part of the Tommy's Stillbirth Research Centre at St Mary's Hospital in Manchester. It provides specialist care for women who have suffered a previous stillbirth or neonatal death.

  • Diagram of baby and placenta in womb

    The Placenta Clinic

    The Placenta Clinic, run as part of the Tommy's Stillbirth Research Centre at St Mary's Hospital in Manchester, is the largest placenta-focused research group in the world.

  • Team of researchers

    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.