Understanding pregnancy research needs and priorities in the UK

Pregnant woman visiting doctor for checkup, photo by Halfpoint/Adobe Stock

Photo by Halfpoint/Adobe Stock

Background

There is mounting evidence that more pregnancy-related research is needed to improve outcomes for women and babies. Recent UK policies have emphasised the need to improve pregnancy care and noted a lack of research in key areas, including pre-conception interventions, screening tests, pregnancy treatments and models for perinatal care (e.g. NIHR’s Better Beginnings (2017).

A 2009 review concluded that UK maternal and perinatal health research is underfunded compared to other disease areas, with the UK devoting a lower proportion of funding than other English-speaking countries. However, the review did not provide a comprehensive picture of where and how existing funding was invested, and how this aligned with research needs and priorities in the area.

In an annual report focused on women’s health, England’s Chief Medical Officer recommended a review of research needs and expenditure in pregnancy in the UK.

Goals

This study aims to generate a sound evidence base on UK pregnancy research needs and priorities and how these compare to the current funding landscape. This project will support the work of the UK Clinical Research Collaboration Pregnancy Research Review Subgroup, which was established in response to the Chief Medical Officer’s recommendation.

Methodology

This study consists of three main parts:

  1. The research team will analyse the current level of spending on pregnancy research in the UK. For this analysis, the team will gather and analyse data from a wide range of funders – including public funders and charities – on pregnancy-related research they have funded in the past several years.
  2. To put the research funding data in context, the team will review data on the healthcare costs associated with pregnancy, and the levels of research spend on other aspects of health.
  3. Through a literature review, an online crowdsourcing exercise, survey and workshops, the researchers will identify and explore what key stakeholders understand the key research priorities in this area to be.

The results of these three strands of work will be brought together in a public report, to be published along with an open dataset of the funding data gathered.