Tommy’s Manchester Research Centre

The Tommy’s Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre at the University of Manchester is made up of internationally renowned clinicians, scientists and researchers investigating stillbirth and associated pregnancy complications.

Opened in 2001, our pioneering research centre in Manchester aims to find solutions to pregnancy problems. The centre focuses on:

  • understanding the causes of stillbirth and developing treatments to prevent it
  • finding ways to identify which pregnancies are at risk
  • working with the NHS to improve antenatal care to help reduce stillbirth rates in the UK.

Our researchers deliver world-class advances in pregnancy research to inform better clinical care, policy and practice. By doing this, we can improve outcomes for mothers, their babies and their families.

The centre has grown to include a network of 7 research clinics. At our clinics, we offer specialist care to women at high risk of pregnancy loss. These women have a chance to take part in clinical studies that improve our understanding of stillbirth, fetal growth restriction, hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes. The clinics allow us to translate research breakthroughs into clinical practice.

Our model is very successful. Since 2010, our research centre has reduced the stillbirth rate in the Greater Manchester area by 32% against a much lower national average rate of reduction. Since 2017, there has been a 25% reduction in stillbirth rates at Saint Mary's Hospital in Manchester specifically. 

The placenta and stillbirth

In around half of stillbirths, there is a problem with the placenta – the link between mother and baby.  That’s why many of our research studies focus on the placenta. Failure of the placenta means that not enough oxygen and nutrients get to the growing baby and this leaves them at high risk of death. Fetal growth restriction is one of the leading causes of stillbirth.

2019 research highlights

  • Having discovered that there are a higher number of large blood vessels in placentas affected by diabetes, we are looking at treatments that can stabilise the process of vessel growth to improve pregnancy outcomes for women and their babies.
  • We found that nitrate dietary supplements, such as beetroot juice, significantly lowered high blood pressure in women, a condition associated with pregnancy complications such as pre-eclampsia.
  • We have pioneered nano particle technology, a way to directly deliver drugs to the placenta with no side effects to the mum and baby.