Dame Sally Davies opens Centre for Better Births


Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies (front, second from left) with University officials and representatives from Liverpool Women’s Hospital

Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies has opened a new research centre, led by the University of Liverpool and Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust, aimed at improving experiences in pregnancy and childbirth for women across the world.

The Centre for Better Births, which forms part of the University’s new Centre for Women’s Health Research, aims to improve understanding of the problems experienced in childbirth and labour, such as premature labour; stillborn babies; emergency caesareans; infertility; and miscarriage.

With generous donations from a number of individuals, charities and trusts, the University and Hospital raised £2.5 million to create state-of-the-art laboratory space for research and facilities for the training of young scientists.

How the womb works

One of the areas the centre is focusing on is the science of how the womb works.  Scientists at Liverpool have found that the level of lactic acid in the uterus and the bloodstream dictates the success of natural birth.  This work suggests that if the uterus was ‘rested’ the body may overcome some of the contraction problems caused by excess acid.

Working with a team of 20 scientists and doctors, researchers are looking at how contractions of the womb are regulated and controlled so that medics can improve the ways in which they help women whose labour is not progressing as it should.

”This new centre will be a hub for training the next generation of scientists so that we continue to advance our knowledge and prevent problems in pregnancy and labour for women and families across the globe”
Research already underway is looking at the impact carrying twins can have on contractions during labour, as well as the effectiveness of drugs used to help pregnancy progress normally, such as oxytocin and progesterone.  Studies also include investigating how obesity and diabetes can influence experiences in labour.

Professor Susan Wray, Director of the Centre for Better Births, said: “It has long been recognised that there is a great deal more we can do to improve the experience of childbirth for women around the world.  Unfortunately research in this area has traditionally lacked the resources it needs to move forward in investigating important questions such as, why emergency caesarean births have increased by nearly  50% in 30 years, and why it is estimated that one in five pregnancies end in miscarriage each year.

“This new centre is a big step forward in addressing these important health issues.  It will be a hub for training the next generation of scientists so that we continue to advance our knowledge and prevent problems in pregnancy and labour for women and families across the globe.”

Dedicated to research

Jonathan Herod, Medical Director at Liverpool Women’s Hospital, said: “The Trust are delighted to be working with the University on such an important project which will benefit not only the women of Liverpool but women all over the world.

“Three messages that the Trust work to are that we are dedicated to research and innovation, dedicated to patients and their families and dedicated to working together – the Centre For Better Births is a wonderful example of how these values fit together.”

Research strengths at the Centre is also supported by University and Hospital expertise at the Sanyu Research Unit, established to promote improvements in maternal and child health in low resource settings, and the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group, which reviews data on pregnancy and childbirth to ensure that the medical profession and policy makers have unbiased and up-to-date information on healthcare issues.

The Centre for Better Births was officially opened on Friday, 26 April at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital


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