A team of researchers have shown that a simple blood test to measure bile acids in the blood can provide information about the risk of stillbirth for pregnant women with a common liver disorder called Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy or ICP.  

This recent discovery builds on Sands-funded research by the same team, based at King's College London and Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust.  

We are delighted that research we supported has been part of work that has led to this important new intervention, which will help identify women who may be at higher risk of stillbirth that’s related to this pregnancy-specific liver disease.

Pregnant women can now be targeted to receive the right care to keep themselves and their baby safe. 

Professor Catherine Williamson, who led the research, said: “The funding Sands provided to us for a previous study that led to this work found that women who had severe ICP with high bile acids in the blood were more likely to give birth to a stillborn baby.

“This work was very important and allowed us to ask more questions. In this recent study we found out which pregnant women were at the highest risk of stillbirth.”

The blood test is already in use but healthcare professionals will now know the threshold above which there is a greater risk of stillbirth.

Jenny Chambers, Chief Executive Officer of ICP Support, a charity who work closely with Sands and who part-funded the study, said: “We welcome the news that most women with ICP will now be spared the anxiety of worrying about the possibility of stillbirth.

“However, it important that health professionals realise that regular bile acid testing until birth is vital to ensure that those women who are at greater risk aren’t missed.”

Clea Harmer, Chief Executive at Sands, said: “This new research demonstrates that research is vital in finding answers to the cause of many stillbirths and treatments that can prevent deaths.

“In supporting this team with funding five years ago, we are proud to have been part of the pathway of research that has led to this new intervention that has potential to save lives.”

You can find out more about the study Sands funded here. Further details about the blood test research can be found here

Picture: Professor Catherine Williamson.