“It’s now time for us to lead the world on stillbirth... we owe this to families in the UK.” Ben Gummer MP Health Minister, May 2016
Over 3,400 babies were stillborn in the UK in 2016. From 2012 to 2017, Tommy’s research on stillbirth has helped decrease 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. 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 focuses 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.
Around a half of stillbirths are due to problems with 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. This has enabled us to increase the number of families who can access Rainbow Clinic by 30%. In 2018, we plan to open Rainbow Clinics in five new locations.
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
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.
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.
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.
1. ONS (2017) Vital statistics: population and health reference tables 2017, Office of National Statistics, London, England, https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigrati...
2. Tommy’s (2017) Research Report 2017, Tommy’s Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre, University of Manchester
3. NHS Choices [accessed 10/01/2018] Stillbirth overview, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stillbirth/
4. Tommy’s (2017) Research Report 2017, Tommy’s Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre, University of ManchesterHide details