University of Birmingham research wins The BMJ's 'UK Research Paper of the Year'

The BUMPES trial aimed to investigate the most ideal position a first-time mother with a low dose epidural should adopt.

A research paper showing the results of a study led by researchers at the University of Birmingham has been crowned ‘UK Research Paper of the Year’ in The BMJ Awards 2018.   

The paper, published in The BMJ last October, described the results of the BUMPES trial, which aimed to investigate the most ideal position a first-time mother with a low dose epidural should adopt to increase the chance of a birth without interventions such as forceps or a caesarean.

The study concluded that adopting a position lying down on their side, rather than being upright, in the later stages of labour for these women leads to a higher chance of them delivering their baby without any medical intervention.  

Professor Peter Brocklehurst, Professor Christine McArthur and statistician Pollyanna Hardy, all of the University of Birmingham, and their colleagues within the Epidural and Position Trial Collaborative Group, including Dr Phillip Moore, consultant anaesthetist at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, authored the study. The randomised controlled trial, involving 3,093 women who gave birth across 41 UK hospitals between October 2010 and January 2014.

Professor Brocklehurst said the results of the trial, which was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), allowed pregnant women, in consultation with their healthcare providers, to make informed choices about their position in the second stage of labour. 

Reacting to the news that the research had clinched ‘UK Research Paper of the Year’, Professor Brocklehurst, Director of the University of Birmingham’s Birmingham Clinical Trials Unit, said: “We were thrilled to win this award. This study shows there are simple things we can do which can improve outcomes for women and their babies.

“Adopting this practice into routine clinical care for these women will be easy and will mean tens of thousands of women and babies in the UK, and hundreds of thousands of women and babies in the world, will be able to have a straightforward birth without the need for forceps, vacuum or caesarean section.

“This study also demonstrates the effect of many people working together to recruit large enough numbers of women to clinical trials to provide us with clear answers to important research questions. Many people helped us get this answer, and we are all grateful for the huge effort they made, as well as all the women who agreed to take part.”

A spokesperson for The BMJ said: “The nominated papers were all examples of exemplary research but the BUMPES trial stood out. The trial was complex, with multiple centres and diverse cultures. It was beautifully written, well reported, concise and sensitive to the preferences and challenges of women in second stage labour.

“This was a difficult and highly debated research question where sensitive and clearly presented results offer expectant mothers and their medical providers accurate and ample data from which to make an informed choice.” 

The BUMPES trial paper was one of two research papers from the University of Birmingham to be among five from institutions across the UK that were short-listed in this year’s The BMJ Awards.

The other paper, published in June last year in the New England Journal of Medicine, detailed the results of the Cancer Research UK-funded STAMPEDE trial.

One of the largest clinical trials for prostate cancer, and led by the University of Birmingham’s Professor Nick James, it found that adding Abiraterone to hormone therapy at the start of treatment improves survival by 37%.

Find out more