Why do we need this research?
Amniocentesis is a test that can be carried out in early pregnancy to check if a baby has any genetic problems. Using ultrasound to guide, a needle is inserted into the woman’s abdomen to take a sample of the amniotic fluid which surrounds the baby in the womb. This fluid contains cells from the baby that can then be tested in a laboratory for genetic conditions.
Amniocentesis involves a small risk of miscarriage – around 1%. For this reason, it is essential that the person doing the test is trained in both using ultrasound and guiding the needle so that it doesn’t harm the baby or the placenta. This is even more important in obese women, where it can be difficult to place the needle.
Because of the risks, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommends that anyone who carries out amniocentesis should be trained on a simulator first. However, at the moment, there aren’t any devices that let healthcare professionals practice in a way that really helps to prepare them.
What’s happening in this project?
Tommy’s has teamed up with Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity to create a simulator that will let doctors practice amniocentesis in women of different weights. Our researchers have designed a final model which is now being produced by the company Adam,Rouilly, which specialises in medical training equipment. The model uses materials that are strong enough for using many times, but similar enough to the human body to give realistic ultrasound scans. The researchers plan to test the equipment thoroughly to make sure that it provides a good training experience for medical staff.
What difference will this project make?
The training simulator will help healthcare professionals learn how to safely carry out amniocentesis on women with different weights. This training will help to minimise the risks of the procedure for mother and baby as much as possible.
Thanks for your interest in our research
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 research projects
In this Q&A, we sit down and chat with with Tom Willmott, a researcher based at Tommy’s Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre in Manchester. He gives a rare insight into a novel and exciting area of pregnancy health research, known as ‘maternal microbiology’, looking at what we can learn by studying bacteria in the mouths of mums-to-be.
A recently published article, co-authored by Professor Catherine Williamson from Tommy’s Research Centre at King’s College London, suggests that certain pregnancy complications can indicate future health issues for women.
Tommy’s has received a grant from the UK Government’s Department for Health and Social Care to support the costs of its PregnancyHub information and support services throughout the summer, due to rising demand in the wake of coronavirus.
Although recruitment to some clinical trials had to be paused when coronavirus hit the UK, scientists at Tommy’s Research Centres across the UK are still hard at work, supporting women and families in our specialist clinics and sharing their latest studies with academic journals.