Tommy's Edinburgh research centre

Tommy’s research centre in Edinburgh focuses on understanding and lowering the risks caused by obesity and other stress factors during pregnancy. In the year ending March 2015, Tommy’s research helped the stillbirth rate in Scotland fall to its lowest ever rate.

Its full title is the Edinburgh Tommy’s Centre for Maternal and Fetal Health, and it opened its doors in 2008 as part of the state-of-the-art Queen’s Medical Research Institute.

Since 2011, it has also been a vital part of the Medical Research Council’s Centre for Reproductive Health. Our work here focuses on the impact of obesity in pregnancy, as well as other “stressors” such as depression and inflammation.

In October 2016, we also opened our new “preterm birth clinic ” – the first of its kind in Scotland. Our work has been cited in national clinical guidelines, and Tommy’s researchers sit on bodies that influence clinical practice nationwide. This means that our research directly impacts women across the UK, both through our own clinics and through improving practice guidelines. Over 2016, Tommy’s Edinburgh Centre published over 50 papers on pregnancy on topics from the use of progesterone to prevent preterm birth, to the genetics of birthweight.

The centre is led by Jane Norman with a team of around 30 dedicated researchers, midwives and support staff.

Research Highlights

The Tommy’s team have been busy! Here are some of our highlights:

- Rates of stillbirth in Scotland fell to an all-time low of 3.2 per 1,000 live births in 2015 from 3.7 per 1,000 the year before -

Rates of stillbirth in Edinburgh fell from 4.4 to 3.1 per 1,000 after introduction of the AFFIRM intervention, a care package designed to raise awareness of the importance of babies’ movements in the womb

- We published work showing that androgens (– a type of hormone )– cause relaxation of the lining of the womb, and may be involved in maintaining full term pregnancies - Together with other Tommy’s centres, we published the Medical Research Council funded OPPTIMUM study – the largest ever study looking at whether progesterone can prevent premature birth

- We finished the follow-up study of children born to very obese mothers in the HAPPY study . This showed that obesity during pregnancy can increase the risk of problems with children’s neurodevelopment. We can now concentrate on helping women to achieve a healthy BMI before pregnancy to make sure their babies are as healthy as possible.

Read on to find out more about the research taking place at our Edinburgh centre

Other individual projects at our Edinburgh centre

Professor Jane Norman is to be congratulated for developing an outstanding and cohesive team that tracks the biological and clinical consequences of maternal-placental-fetal ‘stressors’ as they present as pregnancy complications. The team is multidisciplinary, linking more classical areas of pregnancy research to less-investigated areas such as maternal mental health. The local and global impact is significant and important.

Peer reviewer

Lecture from Professor Jane Norman on pregnancy research in Edinburgh