On April 1, the U.K.’s first national clinical research centre dedicated to early miscarriage will be opened by Tommy’s, the London-based baby charity that funds research into miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth.
The National Early Miscarriage Centre will consist of specialist clinics at the University of Birmingham, the University of Warwick and Imperial College London, giving 24,000 women per year access to treatment, support and the chance to participate in Tommy’s research studies.
Tommy’s aims to halve the number of miscarriages by 2030 by looking into why it happens, whether it is likely to happen again, how to prevent it and how to provide appropriate aftercare.
Miscarriage is the most common pregnancy complication — 200,000 mothers and their partners are affected every year, with 85 percent of miscarriages occurring within the first 12 weeks — but it is also the least understood. Many women experience recurrent miscarriages in early pregnancy but are offered no further tests to try to determine the reason or whether it might happen again.
Jane Brewin, CEO of Tommy’s, said, “Medical science doesn’t fully understand miscarriage, which is why funding and research is so critical. Through pioneering medical research, Tommy’s clinicians will save babies’ lives by turning their discoveries into screening tests and treatments and launch clinics for pregnant women who are most at risk, giving them the latest improvements in care. They’ll share their work in national clinical guidelines, preventing miscarriages and developing better care across the country.
“Through the National Early Miscarriage Centre, we’ll raise the profile of early miscarriage research and encourage other organisations to invest and help break the silence around miscarriage. To help make it a priority for the government, the team will highlight the economic cost for the NHS. They’ll also grow and lead a network of specialists and work closely with other Tommy’s centres and researchers across the U.K. and internationally.”
In the centre’s first five years, Tommy’s is committed to researching:
- Genetic causes of miscarriage, including a possible connection to damaged DNA in sperm.
- Role of bacteria in miscarriage — and new understanding of the role of the oral, gut and vaginal microbiomes in shaping early pregnancy outcomes.
- Predicting the risk of miscarriage by developing sophisticated computerised risk-prediction models that pull together clinical data from across the U.K.
- Identifying the best ways to support women who have experienced miscarriage.
According to the NHS, one in six pregnancies will end in miscarriage, and many more miscarriages occur before a woman even knows she is pregnant. Currently, the NHS only refers women for investigation after they’ve gone through three early miscarriages.
Zara, who did have three early miscarriages in the last 18 months, welcomed Tommy’s announcement, in particular the need for greater emotional support for women who have gone through miscarriage.
“After I was told my baby had no heartbeat, I was taken through a ward of women waiting to give birth,” she said. “I was devastated, looking for answers, and felt completely alone. I wasn’t offered counseling or given any advice on how to cope with the aftermath of miscarriage. This just isn’t right, and I hope the National Early Miscarriage Centre will be beginning of change across the U.K.”
Find out more about the National Early Miscarriage Centre and the work carried out by Tommy’s here.