The Rainbow Clinic: Improving maternity care following a previous loss

Tommy’s Rainbow Clinics provide specialist maternity care for women who are pregnant again following a previous stillbirth or neonatal death. We want to find out more about the impact that these clinics are having and see if we can find ways to improve care further.
  • Author's list

    Professor Alexander Heazell, Louise Stephens, Emma Tomlinson, Dr Nicole Graham, Dr Gauri Batra, Dr Maxine Horne, Dai Roberts

  • Research centre

  • Research status

    Ongoing projects

Why do we need this research?

For parents whose babies have been stillborn or died shortly after birth, a subsequent pregnancy can be very daunting. There is a higher risk of pregnancy complications, and these parents often need extra care and emotional support throughout the pregnancy. However, the standard of care given to these women and their families varies across the country, often with no continuity of care. Parents have to endure the distress of having to explain their previous loss to health professionals over and over again.

The Tommy’s Rainbow Clinic is a specialist service for parents who have suffered a stillbirth or neonatal death that provides the best possible care to help and support them through a subsequent pregnancy. The first clinic was opened in 2013 at St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester, and there are now 13 active Rainbow Clinics around the country. Three new Rainbow Clinics are ready to launch, and a further 21 maternity units have Rainbow Clinics in development. It is important that we collect data to show how effective these clinics are at improving outcomes for mothers and babies. 

What’s happening in this project?

We are about to embark on the National Rainbow Clinic Study in order to assess the impact of our Rainbow Clinics over the next five years. Our researchers will record the outcomes of pregnancy for mothers and babies who have been cared for at the clinics and will also look at the psychological impact that Rainbow Clinics have on parents who are going through pregnancy after loss. 

Our Rainbow Clinics are also giving us the opportunity to find out more about the risks associated with pregnancy after stillbirth, which could help to personalise care further. Our researchers looked at data from over 250 women who were treated at the original Rainbow Clinic in Manchester in order to find out whether there is a link between the cause of a previous stillbirth and the risk of complications in another pregnancy. The team found that women with a pre-existing medical condition were twice as likely to experience complications in a subsequent pregnancy, while women whose stillbirth was related to problems with the placenta were around 10 times as likely to experience complications. 

What difference will this project make?

Our hope is that more and more women who are pregnant again after loss will be able to access the specialist care that our Rainbow Clinics provide. By carrying out this research, we will have more evidence to demonstrate the positive impact of these clinics, which should encourage other maternity units around the country to set up their own Rainbow Clinics. Our Rainbow Clinics are also providing us with a vast amount of information that can help us to improve and personalise the care that women receive when they are pregnant after a previous stillbirth or neonatal death.