The Lancet have recently launched their series on stillbirths. Stillbirth is one of the areas which Genesis Research Trust’s researchers look into.
A few words of explanation; a stillbirth is a baby born dead after 24 weeks of pregnancy.There are approximately 3600 stillbirths every year in the UK which there are 11 every day. There are several causes ranging from placental complications, cord accidents, infections, birth defects and or problems with the mother’s health. Researchers funded by Genesis Research Trust have been interested in the causes of stillbirth resulting from the mother’s ill-health, particularly in the impact of a disorder called obstetric cholestasis.
Levels of certain hormones in the body are particularly high during pregnancy. Women who suffer with obstetric cholestasis are thought to have an accumulation of the breakdown products of these hormones which reduces the body’s ability to remove bile from the liver. Sufferers experience severe itching especially on the hands and feet, from around week 28 of pregnancy. One study has shown a three-fold increase in the risk of stillbirth for women with severe obstetric cholestasis. Obstetric cholestasis is a pregnancy-specific liver disease that occurs in 1 in 200 pregnancies and affects around 5,000 women each year in the UK. Our research has confirmed the increased risk on stillbirth in these patients and that they become greater with increased measures of bile acids in the mother’s blood.
However, this only one cause of still-birth and the problem is much greater in low and middle income countries. The International Stillbirth Alliance states quite clearly in its report that “we need to speed up work to reduce stillbirth”. Genesis Research Trust can contribute to this global effort but only with your help!