MRI techniques to help prevent stillbirth

Scientists are using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans to see if they tell when babies are struggling in the womb. If we knew when a baby needs to be delivered, this could help prevent stillbirth.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI, uses powerful magnets to look at the structures inside the body. We have already shown that by using MRI, we can see differences in the brains of babies who are too small, and in the placentas that support them. These differences could be used to prevent stillbirth by helping to tell which babies are unwell and need to be delivered early.

Before we can use MRI to help deliver babies that are struggling, we need to clearly understand what to look for. To do that, we must first look at the changes that happen in the placentas and in babies' brains during normal pregnancy. We have now scanned 80 women with healthy pregnancies, and are analysing the results so that we know what a normal pregnancy looks like using MRI. We will then be able to study whether or not we can pick out babies who are struggling, and need to be delivered.

Using the data from this study, researchers will also be able to create 'maps' of the placenta's structure and function. These maps can then be used to improve the MRI imaging techniques, providing a detailed and non-invasive way of looking at the placenta during pregnancy. 


Fiona Denison, Scott Semple, Gillian Macnaught, Jane Walker, Jane Norman

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This study takes place in a Tommy's centre and is funded by Tommy's and the Edinburgh Clinical Research Imaging Centre

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