C-STICH, which is short for ‘cerclage suture type for an insufficient cervix and its effect on health’ is a study to compare smooth and braided fibres for a stitch to keep the cervix closed during early pregnancy.

Every year, more than 3,500 women in UK have complications where their cervix (the neck of the womb) becomes loose and opens during pregnancy. A stitch may be sewn into the cervix to try to keep it closed. This is called ‘cervical suture’ or ‘cervical cerclage’. Without a stitch, the cervix can open too early, resulting in miscarriage or premature birth. Putting a stitch into the cervix does not guarantee to keep the cervix closed, but it can sometimes let the pregnancy continue for a few more weeks.

The stitches used for this procedure are available in different sizes and materials. Some of the stitch threads are made from a single smooth fibre (e.g. nylon) while others are made up of many fibres braided to form a fine ‘rope’ or ‘net-like’ structure.

Most UK consultants use braided threads simply because they have been used traditionally and are thought to be strong. But some surgeons are concerned that braided stitches can increase the risk of infection, which could spread upwards into the womb and cause serious complications during pregnancy for both the mother and her baby.

The C-STICH study is comparing what happens in pregnancies when smooth and braided stitches are used. The research is led by Professor Khaled Ismail, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Birmingham University. We are involved in this research as a co-applicant, which means we were named on the group’s application for funding and continue to have input into the study.

This study is planned to run until 2018.