Analysing multiple studies to find ways to prevent stillbirth

Tommy’s researchers are drawing upon multiple studies to address questions about stillbirth that have not yet been answered.
  • Author's list

    Professor Alexander Heazell, Dexter Hayes, Dr Jo Dumville, Professor Tanya Walsh

Start: March 2019

End: September 2021 

Why do we need this research?

Every day in the UK, nine babies are stillborn – we think this is unacceptable. Tommy’s is working to find new ways to prevent stillbirth from happening. However, it is difficult for researchers to carry out clinical trials to reduce the risk of stillbirth, because such trials would need hundreds of thousands of women to participate. We need to develop new ways to work out how best to prevent stillbirth.

What’s happening in this project?

Instead of setting up brand new trials to investigate how to reduce risk of stillbirth, researchers funded by Tommy’s are looking back at older studies. By gathering data from lots of these studies and combining it, they can try to address some of the questions which haven’t yet been answered.

So far, the researchers have studied the relationship between problems with the umbilical cord and stillbirth. Searching through thousands of research articles, they identified 155 studies to combine and analyse. They found that the risk of stillbirth is increased by multiple loops of the umbilical cord around the baby’s neck, but not with only one loop. They also found that knots or twisting of the umbilical cord also increase risk of stillbirth.

The research team are now carrying out a similar analysis of studies into reduced fetal movements.

What difference will this project make?

By combining the data from many older studies into one analysis, our researchers are revealing brand new findings which could not have been noticed in individual studies. They hope that their work can contribute towards treatment guidelines from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, advising healthcare teams on how best to reduce the risk of stillbirth.