Claire Bowley freely admits she had no idea of the research opportunities available through the NHS.
“I’d just been chatting to the midwives and they told me about the trial, and I thought there was a chance it could benefit me with my pregnancy and perhaps other women in the future, so I went for it.”
Now the former supply teacher not only knows more about NHS research, but also believes her intervention gave her a longer pregnancy, reducing the risk of health problems to her newborn twins.
Claire said: “I had never taken part in research before – in fact, I didn’t really know anything about the research opportunities offered by the NHS. Previously I had always thought clinical trials only applied to illness, but I now think the intervention I had actually lengthened my pregnancy, which helped the health of my children.”
Claire was the first person recruited by Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust’s team of research midwives into the STOPPIT-2 trial, which looks at whether a vaginal pessary fitted over the cervix may prevent preterm birth in twins. Previous studies have shown that it can be of benefit in single-child pregnancies; now researchers want to know if it can have the same effect in twin pregnancies, where women are at greater risk of preterm problems.
The trial is on the National Institute for Health Research’s portfolio and is supported by the Clinical Research Network Yorkshire and Humber, which supports the delivery of research in the NHS.
“I felt really lucky when I found out the gender of my twins, that I was eligible for the trial and had the pessary fitted all on the same day!” Claire added. “I’d just been chatting to the midwives and they told me about the trial, and I thought there was a chance it could benefit me with my pregnancy and perhaps other women in the future, so I went for it.”
The pessary itself is a soft ring made of silicone which fits over the cervix, and Claire explained: “Having it fitted wasn’t too uncomfortable – there was only discomfort for a couple of minutes and day-to-day living with it was fine.”
Claire, who lives in Leeds with husband Andrew, a marketing manager for a bank, had the pessary taken out a week before she was due to give birth and had an induced labour, giving birth to Oscar and Amber at 37 weeks in August 2016.
“Both the twins are really thriving,” Claire explained. “I’ve been pregnant before [with Eva who is now four] but carrying twins felt different – there was more strain on my body and I felt heavier.
“I definitely think the pessary helped me have a longer pregnancy. I went into the trial thinking participation could help me – and it was a case of ‘if it benefits me, why wouldn’t I do it?’ – and I’m glad I did.
“I would encourage other women, of whatever age and location, to ask about research opportunities available to them.”
International Clinical Trials Day takes place on May 20 every year and marks the anniversary of what is considered to be the first ever randomized clinical trial, conducted by James Lind into scurvy in 1747.
Those who want to know more about clinical trials going on in their area should go to the UK Clinical Trials Gateway at www.ukctg.nihr.ac.uk