The effects of COVID-19 on pregnant women and their babies: What can we find out from the Tommy’s National Reproductive Health Biobank?

Our researchers are looking at biological samples contained within the Tommy’s National Reproductive Health Biobank to find out more about the effects of COVID-19 infection on the health of pregnant women and their babies.
  • Author's list

    Professor Rebecca Reynolds, Jayne Brady, Dr Sarah Caughey, Shona Low

    Start date: March 2020
    End date: March 2021

  • Research centre

  • Research status

    Ongoing projects

Why do we need this research?

In some women, pregnancy can alter how the body responds to severe viral infections. When the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK in March 2020, pregnant women were therefore classed as an ‘at risk’ group. However, very little is known about the true impact of COVID-19 infection on pregnancy, and there is some evidence to suggest that pregnant women are at no greater risk of becoming seriously unwell than other healthy adults. 

It is crucial that we find out more about the effects of COVID-19 infection on the health of mothers and their babies, so that pregnant women can be provided with the best possible advice.

What’s happening in this project?

The Tommy’s National Reproductive Health Biobank consists of biological samples – including blood and placental tissue – collected before, during and after normal or complex pregnancies. These donated samples are linked to records detailing medical history, pregnancy outcome and the health of the baby, and can be used by researchers from across the country during clinical trials.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers at the Tommy’s Centre for Maternal and Fetal Health in Edinburgh collected samples for the biobank from women with either suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection. The team will now look at these samples in the lab to better understand how pregnant women respond to COVID-19. They want to see which women are most at risk and whether this is linked to gestation at the time of infection. They also want to use the biobank to understand the effects of COVID-19 infection on how well the placenta was working during pregnancy, and on the health of the baby.

What difference will this project make?

The pre-existing infrastructure of the Tommy’s National Reproductive Health Biobank has meant that our researchers have been well placed to collect biological samples from women who became infected with COVID-19 during pregnancy. The data collected will feed into the global effort to find out more about the effects of the pandemic on pregnant women and their babies.