Tommy’s, the UK baby charity that funds research into miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth, is to open the country’s first national clinical research centre dedicated to early miscarriage on 1 April.
The National Early Miscarriage Centre will comprise a partnership of three universities: The University of Birmingham, The University of Warwick, and Imperial College London. The three sites will run specialist clinics enabling 24,000 women per year to access treatment and support and participate in Tommy’s research studies. The centre will seek to understand why miscarriage happens, if it is likely to happen again, how to prevent it, and how to provide appropriate aftercare.
While miscarriage is by far the biggest cause of pregnancy loss in the UK, it’s also the least understood. In 2013/14, only 4% of the government’s health research budget was spent on ‘reproductive health and childbirth’, with just a fraction of this going towards miscarriage research. Miscarriage causes untold heartbreak: 200,000 mothers and their partners are affected every year with 85 per cent of miscarriages occurring within the first 12 weeks. Parents often receive no answers when it happens.
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 UK and internationally.”
Professor Arri Coomarasamy, from the University of Birmingham's Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research, said, “It’s fantastic that so much of this work will be taking place in the West Midlands, building on our long-standing commitment and unrivalled track record in pioneering early pregnancy treatment and support.”
“Miscarriage is the most common complication of pregnancy but also a deeply personal and often isolating experience for women and couples. Many questions remain unanswered. Here in Birmingham we’re determined to find the answers.”
In the centre’s first five years Tommy’s commits to researching:
- Genetic causes including a possible connection to damaged DNA in sperm
- Role of bacteria in miscarriage – 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 UK
- Identifying the best ways to support women who have experienced miscarriage