Priority Area Two

Developing new approaches for identifying women at increased risk of stillbirth

Priority Area Two leads: Professor Euan Wallace, Professor Vicki Clifton

Novel tests to improve antenatal detection of women at increased risk of stillbirth are needed. Many of the unexplained stillbirths that occur in high-income countries may be due to problems with how the placenta develops and functions. Such problems may contribute to stillbirth, even in babies who appear to be growing well during pregnancy. By assessing the function of the placenta, it may be possible to predict which babies have a greater chance of stillbirth. We may then be able to intervene before stillbirth occurs.

As well as identifying babies who might be at-risk of stillbirth, assessing the function of the placenta and looking at placental biomarkers may help to detect babies who have an increased chance of experiencing distress during labour. Babies who experience distress during labour are at-risk of developing brain injury and resulting disability, such as cerebral palsy. Therefore, detecting babies who have an increased chance of experiencing distress during labour may help to reduce both stillbirth and childhood disability.

A national collaboration is being established to identify novel placental biomarkers for pre-clinical testing. An initial one-day workshop held in Brisbane in July 2017 confirmed support for this national project and ongoing workshops throughout the life of the CRE will continue to progress this work and foster new collaborations.

  • Identifying novel placental biomarkers

    Leads: Professor Vicki Clifton; Professor Euan Wallace

    This is a national consortium of placental biologists and clinicians working on placental mechanisms and circulating biomarkers that may be early indicators of pregnancies at risk of a stillbirth.

  • Evaluating prediction strategies for adverse outcomes at term

    Lead: Professor Sailesh Kumar

    This study aims to evaluate strategies for detecting mothers and babies at an increased-risk of late-pregnancy stillbirth and other adverse pregnancy outcomes. Specific aims include:

    • Improving understanding and prediction of decreased fetal movements
    • Assessing the role of routine third-trimester ultrasound scanning in reducing adverse outcomes
    • Examining the role of PlGF (placental growth factor) in identifying women at-risk
    • Assessing barriers to morphology scanning