Why we need the Tommy's National Centre for Miscarriage Research

Miscarriage is by far the biggest cause of pregnancy loss in the UK, and it’s also the least understood. Tommy's is opening the UK's first national research centre dedicated to early miscarriage.

Quote saying miscarriage is not understood

In April 2016 Tommy's opened the UK's first national centre dedicated to miscarriage research.

  • Miscarriage is by far the biggest cause of pregnancy loss in the UK, and it’s also the least understood.

  • 85 percent of miscarriages happen in the first 12 weeks, and are known as early miscarriages.

  • Parents often receive no answers when it happens.

  • Current health guidelines mean they need to endure three consecutive early miscarriages before there is any investigation. We want to challenge this.

The best chance of changing the situation is through research, and that’s why we’re opening Europe's largest research centre dedicated to preventing miscarriage and improving care. 

The Tommy's National Early Miscarriage Centre will comprise a partnership of three universities: the University of Birmingham, the University of Warwick, and Imperial College London. The three sites will run specialist clinics enabling 24,000 women per year to access treatment and support and participate in Tommy’s research studies.

The centre will seek to understand why miscarriage happens, if it is likely to happen again, how to prevent it, and how to provide appropriate aftercare.

While miscarriage is by far the biggest cause of pregnancy loss in the UK, it’s also the least understood. And there is little government money spent on changing this. 

Miscarriage causes untold heartbreak, 200,000 mothers and their partners are affected every year.

“My second pregnancy ended in miscarriage at 12 weeks. We waited a week before they could operate to remove the baby and during that week I hoped for a miracle but no, of course, there was no miracle, just a pair of broken-hearted parents.” 

Lisa, Tommy’s supporter 

Currently, the NHS only refers women for investigation after they’ve endured three miscarriages*, leaving parents to suffer the physical and emotional trauma repeatedly before they become eligible for help. Experiencing a single miscarriage is traumatic... going through three is gruelling. Many women who suffer miscarriage experience symptoms of depression.

We strongly believe that the chromosome problems and the other underlying causes for miscarriage could be preventable. That’s thousands of lives that could be saved.

“I had five further miscarriages over the next three years. I can’t believe I put myself through the heartache and pain so many times. Although we saw specialists we still don’t really know why they happened. There were ‘possible’ reasons and ‘possible’ solutions that made every pregnancy terrifying.” 

Kate, Tommy’s supporter

As well as investigating the physical causes of miscarriage, the research centre will seek to understand better the emotional effects. Tommy’s has been working with women to share their personal experiences of miscarriage as part of our #misCOURAGE campaign. The huge amount of engagement we have seen with this campaign demonstrates the need for further understanding of the devastating psychological effect of miscarriage on women, their partners and loved ones.

We’ll raise the profile of early miscarriage research, and encourage other organisations to invest. To help make it a priority for the government, the team will highlight the economic cost for the NHS. They’ll also grow and lead a network of specialists, and work closely with other Tommy’s centres and researchers across the UK and internationally.

'As a doctor, I wish I could give my patients the answers they are looking for. The thing is, we have the expertise, the technology, the drive - we just need the funding. Tommy's proposed new centre is the most promising chance yet of making breakthroughs in early miscarriage.'

Professor Phillip Bennett, Director of the Institute for Reproductive and Developmental Biology at Imperial College London

How to get referred to the Tommy's National Miscarriage Research Centre

Referral information for the Tommy’s National Miscarriage Research Centre clinics

Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research has recurrent miscarriage clinics in three different sites in the UK:

  • Birmingham Women’s Hospital
  • University Hospital Coventry
  • St Mary’s Hospital London

All of the clinics will accept patients who have had 3 miscarriages and an appropriate General Practitioner (GP) referral from anywhere within the UK (there is more specific information on criteria for each clinic below). This will provide you (and your partner) with the opportunity to be part of research towards finding the cause of repeated miscarriages. 

The clinics are centres of excellence and work hand in hand with the research centres by offering women the opportunity to have new tests and take part in new trials.

Tommy’s strong view is that all women should get referral after 2 miscarriages and our clinicians and centre directors are working towards this goal. However, until it is made normal NHS funded practice, we are unable to offer it as standard across the clinics. Currently only the clinic in Coventry has an arrangement that allows women with 2 miscarriages to be referred and then only from the local area (see more below).

If you have had 3 miscarriages and wish to be referred to a Tommy’s clinic, you do not have to live within the area of any of the clinics; a GP referral can be made to whichever centre is convenient to you. 

Your referral can be made on the basis that the Tommy’s centre offers tests and treatments not offered by your local hospital. This can be the reason for your request for out-of-area referral.

Choice is enshrined in the NHS charter.

There is not a specific referral form that needs to be used; your GP can use their own.

NHS funded tests available by clinic

Test

Purpose

Birmingham

London 

Coventry

lupus anticoagulant test  to test for anti-phospholipid antibodies (sticky blood conditions)  Y  Y  Y
anti-cardiolipin antibody test to test for anti-phospholipid antibodies (sticky blood conditions)   Y  Y  Y
thrombophilia screen  to test for congenital sticky blood conditions      Y
thromboelastogram analysis  to test for global bleeding tendencies    Y  
detailed pelvic ultrasound scanning  to look for abnormalities in the womb or ovaries  Y    
rubella test  to ensure immunity to German measles or rubella  Y    
TSH, T3 and T4 tests  to identify any problems with the thyroid gland  Y*    
vitamin D test  to identify vitamin D deficiency  Y*    
coeliac disease screen - TTG antibody test to investigate autoimmune serology, whereby healthy cells inside the body may be attacked by abnormal cells      Y  Y
HbA1C test to investigate for diabetes   Y*    Y
 fetal karyotyping to identify any structural or genetic problems of the foetus   Y*  Y*  Y*
parental karyotyping performed if the above test reveals any genetic issues, to identify any genetic abnormalities in either partner    Y*  Y*  Y*

*if indicated

Referral details by clinic

Tommy’s@Birmingham

Criteria

  • 3 or more early miscarriages
  • one or more late miscarriage(s)
  • women do not need to be from the local area

Contact details for referrals

The Tommy’s Miscarriage Clinic @ Birmingham

c/o Mrs Wendy Gibson, Medical Secretaries

Birmingham Womens NHS Foundation Trust

Mindelsohn Way

Edgbaston

Birmingham

B15 2TG

0121 623 6834

BWH-tr-tommysclinic@nhs.net

Tommy’s@London

Criteria

  • 3 or more early miscarriages
  • one or more late miscarriage(s)
  • women referred should be <42 years old
  • women do not need to be from the local area

Contact details for referrals

Professor Lesley Regan

Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology

St Mary's Hospital

Recurrent Miscarriage Office

Ground Floor, Mint Wing

South Wharf Road

London

W2 1NY

Tommy’s@Coventry

Criteria

  • 2 or more miscarriages if local to Coventry
  • 3 or more early miscarriages if from outside this area
  • one or more late miscarriage(s)

Contact details for referrals

Professor Quenby

Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology

University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust

Clifford Bridge Road

Coventry

CV2 2DX

Tel: 02476967528

Fax: 02476967584


More details on how to take part in our clinical trials here.

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Individual miscarriage research projects

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Comments

  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 15 Jun 2017 - 22:49

    Hi am 41 years old in October 2015 I had a missed miscarriage and 3 chemical miscarriages in February, July and December 2016 . Very emotional and depressed now I have been trying for 2 years and 4 months . . Would love some help or advice thank you

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 16 Jun 2017 - 16:01

    I am so sorry to hear of your miscarriages, what you have been through and continue to go through. Have you seen your GP at all? Have a chat with them about any tests that they can offer you? In addition, some emotionally support through some counselling may help? Please feel free to email us at midwife@tommys.org if we can support you moving forward.

  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 14 Jun 2017 - 05:29

    Given that health is a devolved matter GP's in N Ireland cannot refer women directly to any service provided by NHS England. We have to have a referral from a Consultant and we have to make an Extra Contractual Referral application for funding from the Health and Social Care Board in N Ireland. Onky if this is approved and funding provided can we be referred for treatment. So I wo fee if your statement above, that you can be referred by your UP from anywhere in the UK to a Tommy's recurrent miscarriage research clinic is actually correct (for women in N Ireland and oossibly the ither devolved regions if the UK too, especially Scotland)? As for St Marys Recurrent Miscarriage Clinic...I got the full funding for referral to St Mary's - every penny was secured- but only after I and my consultant and the Health and Social Care Board in N Irelabd went through the rigorous process of getting funding in place did St Mary's inform me that they would not see me as I did not meet their referral criteria. I has two children then from Oct 2010 I have had 8 consecutive miscarriages, losing most of my babies at 11-12 weeks (apparently I am "highly unusual"). I have had no access to proper recurrent miscarriage investigation or any psychological support at all in that time. I was told that because I had had more than one live birth Prof Regan would not see me, despite my extensive and prolonged recurrent miscarriage history and not even when every penny of funding had been secured. They also tried to say I was too old but I am not yet 42. I note the referral criteria you list above does not mention the "no more than one live birth" criteria so why was this used against me? Also I know that Prof Regan has made exceptions to this criteria in the past and has seen and treated other women - at least some from N Ireland as well- who had two biological children of their own before their miscarriages so why will she not see me? I have written in desperation several times. I had the funding in place. Why will St Mary's not help me? I have had 8 incredibly difficult miscarriages one after the other, peppered with periods of infertility inbetween, for 6 and a half long and lonely years. I don't understand the attitude if St Mary's towards me. It is incredibly hurtful. I know that only yesterday a high profile couple on social media who suffer recurrent miscarriage- but the mother has has more than one live birth- has been seen in St Mary's. So why will St Marys not see me...U don't understand at all. There are no other factors or reasons in the background.

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 14 Jun 2017 - 12:38

    Dear Catherine,

    I am so sorry to hear about your 8 consecutive miscarriages. I can only imagine how devastating and frustrating it must be for you trying to find answers into why you lose most of your babies at around 11-12 weeks. No doubt this 6 and a half years must have been long and lonely experience for you.

    I am unable to answer the questions you have raised as we are not in a position to set the criteria that the specialists at the Miscarriage Centres go by.

    We will contact St Mary's to ensure that we have up to date criteria information on our website in the future. I wish there was more that we could do to help you Catherine.

    Tommy's Midwives

  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 1 Jun 2017 - 10:59

    I've recently sufferered my 4th early miscarriage. I've been to see my gp but have been told that as I have a child and by had 3 consecutive miscarriages I am not eligible for referral under the nhs (I had 2 missed miscarriages before my child and another 2 in the last 6 months). Would I be eligible for referrals to Tommys? Many thanks

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 1 Jun 2017 - 12:59

    Hi, I am so sorry to hear of your miscarriages. At the moment I am afraid the referral criteria is the same as the NHS, in that the centres can only accept a referral after three consecutive miscarriages. The only exception to this is the centre in Coventry and if you live in Coventry then they will accept a referral after two. If you would like to discuss this further please do email us midwife@tommys.org. The link to the referral information is here:https://www.tommys.org/our-organisation/what-we-do/our-research/miscarriage-research

  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 3 Mar 2017 - 23:36

    Hello, sadly I have had 3 miscarriages in the last year - may 2016 (10 weeks), October 2016 (10 weeks) and January 2017 (8weeks) that is a total of 6/7 months and no babies just an incredibly broken heart. I am having tests at guys. Would I still be eligible to contribute to tommys research and have addditional tests at St Mary's?

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 6 Mar 2017 - 09:18

    Hi Searching For Hope.
    If you get your GP to refer you to our St Mary's Miscarriage Centre, you can be seen for further testing and participate in additional research and trails if you are fully consenting and you fit the criteria. Feel free to email/call us if you need more information. Take good care of yourself.

  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 21 Jan 2017 - 09:45

    I've just had my 3rd miscarriage over christmas. I had just had a scan the week previous and saw my baby at 7+4 weeks, heart beating away. Id had a bleed and was told everything was fine but i had a small heamatoma next to baby. Then got told on the next scan there was no heart beat.im absolutly crushed, found this 3rd one the most difficult to deal with. I have two children who are 19 & 14 but it doesnt make it any easier to deal with.people say "at least you have had children" yes i have and im very lucky to have them but im still distraught.and people don't talk about it.my own family is avoiding me so tbey dont upset me. Ive been referred now for investigation i have to ring them on day 1 of cycle and go between day 3&5, ive not been told what they will do! Ive told complete strangers who have been great but some of my closest family and friends don't know... i'm grieving and i don't think people understand that...

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 23 Jan 2017 - 10:23

    Hi Sarah. I am so sorry to hear of your loss. A miscarriage, at any gestation is a difficult process to go through. It can be quite difficult for some family and friends to understand, as it is such a unique type of grief. Often, only the couple who have suffered the loss, fully understand the experience, as well as others who have experienced the same as you, or medical professionals.
    If you felt able to, you could confide in a relative and explain to them how low you are feeling and how misunderstood you are feeling. Family support is very powerful and even if they do not fully understand, they may be able to empathize with you.
    I think it is wonderful that you are about to undergo further testing though. Those clinics often provide a wide variety of testing, screening and support which will hopefully be of great comfort to you.
    I wish you all the best Sarah. Please feel free to call us on 0800 0147800 to speak to a midwife if you feel that this would be helpful to you!

  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 22 Aug 2016 - 20:45

    Hi,
    I'm based in Birmingham near the QE, I've had 2 miscarriages and a chemical, do I need a doctors referral to be seen?
    Thanks
    J

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 24 Aug 2016 - 11:44

    Hi J,
    if you have had three miscarriages you meet the criteria for a referral to Tommy's@Birmingham
    https://www.tommys.org/our-organisation/what-we-do/our-research/miscarriage-research
    please follow the link above and take the details with you so that your GP can refer you.
    Regards from Tommy's Midwives

  • By Deirdre@Tommy's on 20 Jun 2016 - 10:00

    Hi,
    We're so sorry to read about what you've been through. It feels very unfair but the risks of miscarriage increase with age and the success rate is low, which is why there is a cut-off point. We can't advise on the donor egg route unfortunately as our research is focused on miscarriage rather than infertility. If you would like to speak to a midwife here about this or any other issue (or just to talk things through), the free phone line is 0800 0147 800, Monday to Friday 9-5. So sorry not to be able to be more helpful. Regards, Tommy's

  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 18 Jun 2016 - 11:33

    Hello, I have now had a total of 5 miscarriages, 8 Ivf procedures and have one beautiful little girl who is now 4. At 36 yrs old a GP said I had plenty of time, eventually being referred for ivf at age 39 due to male factors. 4 out of the 5 miscarriages have been natural pregnancies and now at the ripe old age of 44 no one is really interested as to why as "statistically" this is now down to my age - which it may or may not be if you take into consideration my original need for ivf. I understand your research cut off is 42 but if there is anything you could advise at this point as I am terrified of looking at the donor egg route only to encounter the same issues.

  • By Deirdre@Tommy's on 11 May 2016 - 15:08

    Hi, We are working on a downloadable pdf that you'll be able to take with you but it's not ready yet. It'll be available on the website once its complete. If you would like to be involved please email me on ddebarra@tommys.org.
    Thanks!
    Deirdre

  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 11 May 2016 - 14:20

    Hi, I've spent the morning ringing each hospital and because I live in Wales I have to see if my Gp will fund me. Is there information I can take to my GP explaining the refferal and the process. Thankyou

  • By Deirdre@Tommy's on 11 May 2016 - 13:38

    Hi,
    Can you email me on ddebarra@tommys.org? We believe this could be challenged. Thanks, Deirdre at Tommy's

  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 5 May 2016 - 12:59

    I have contacted my GP who says I can't get referral to tommys as ccg will not support it. I have had multiple miscarriages. I'm not sure where to turn next ? Any help would be appreciated

  • By Deirdre@Tommy's on 26 Apr 2016 - 15:35

    No, not at all.

  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 26 Apr 2016 - 15:33

    is there a cost if you get referred via GP? for the trials etc....

  • By Deirdre@Tommy's on 26 Apr 2016 - 15:05

    There's some information above on referrals in the grey box. We do not only see women locally but you would need to request that your GP refers you. Hope this helps
    Tommy's

  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 22 Apr 2016 - 18:50

    My daughter has several problems with trying to get pregnant. She has had one course of IVF but has been told she is rejecting the embryo. She lives in Plymouth can she be referred or do you only see people locally. thank you

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