The loss of a child through stillbirth is one of the most devastating experiences parents can face. Tragically, very little is known about the causes of stillbirth, yet it is surprisingly common: one in every 220 babies is stillborn.
There are many preconceptions around the causes of stillbirth, which often assume that the baby had something wrong to begin with. In fact, between 25–60% of stillbirths remain unexplained.
What’s more, a chronic lack of funding in this area of research means there has been little reduction in still birth rates for the past 20 years.
Stillbirth has considerable medical, psychological, social and economic consequences. Women who experience a stillbirth are more likely to develop mental health problems, including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. They are also 10 times more likely to have a stillborn in the future.
Antonia and Simon share their story of losing their baby, Shoshana, to stillbirth.
Here at The University of Manchester, we are determined to find out why babies are stillborn. We also aim to provide the necessary care and support for parents either at risk of stillbirth, or who have been affected by it.
In collaboration with Tommy’s stillbirth charity and St Mary’s Hospital, we run the Manchester Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre, which is the only dedicated stillbirth research centre in the UK. Here, 80 staff, including clinical scientists, scientists and research midwives work side-by-side with families.
Through our research, we have managed to develop tests and treatments that have resulted in a 29% decrease in still births across Manchester since 2011.