A mum who gave birth to healthy twins after being at high risk of premature birth has encouraged other patients to get involved in clinical research.
Joanne Norris gave birth to Harry (4lbs 11oz) and Evie (5lbs 11oz) at Royal Bolton Hospital on 18 August 2017. Both babies were in good health and Joanne took them back to her Bolton home with husband Mark the very next day.
However, at the beginning it was far from certain that her children would be born without complications.
When a woman is pregnant with twins, there is always an increased risk of preterm birth (i.e. before 37 weeks. The standard due date is 40 weeks after conception).
Joanne’s risk was even greater still, due to the fact her cervix was shortened after undergoing LLETZ treatment a couple of years previously. This is a procedure to remove cervical tissue for examination and to treat some pre-cancerous changes of the cervix.
With this in mind, Joanne was approached by a member of the research team during a routine antenatal appointment at Bolton hospital.
It was suggested she might like to take part in a trial called STOPPIT-2, which is on the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) portfolio of research studies. The trial is aiming to determine whether a small silicone device called an Arabin cervical pessary prevents preterm birth in women with a twin pregnancy and a short cervix.
After it was established Joanne met the criteria, she was recruited on to the study and had the pessary inserted over her cervix. Her pregnancy progressed routinely and she gave birth to Harry and Evie after just over 37 weeks.
Almost a year later, the twins are doing great and Joanne, of Long Lane, Bolton, says she had a very positive experience of taking part in clinical research.
Joanne, 34, a social worker, said: “During one of my appointments at the hospital, I got approached by one of the research nurses who had a discussion with us about taking part in the trial and how it would possibly benefit me. And I felt it was something I wanted to take part in.
“Throughout the whole process, I felt very supported by the research team. If there were any issues, or if I had any concerns or queries, they were always available.
“I had a very positive outcome at the end of it all, because I gave birth to two beautiful babies. They were both born at 37 weeks and two days, which is amazing considering I was at high risk of premature birth. I feel the pessary worked for myself and I’m pleased to have contributed to the overall findings of the study.
“I would definitely recommend taking part in research to other people because I felt it was a very positive experience with a very positive outcome. The staff explained everything step-by-step and if I had any questions, they were always happy to answer them. I couldn't find a fault with any of the service.”
Professor Jane Norman, the UK lead investigator for the STOPPIT-2 study, from the University of Edinburgh’s MRC Centre for Reproductive Health, said: “We are still recruiting to the STOPPIT-2 study and we are very grateful to all the women who have participated to date. Bolton was the first NHS hospital to recruit to STOPPIT-2 in March 2015 and we would like to thank all the staff who support the study in Bolton and throughout the UK.
“Although we don’t currently know if the pessary is effective, we will complete the study recruitment next year, by which time over 2,000 women will have been screened with 500 randomly allocated to the interventions. We plan to have results available to share in 2020.”
NB: This study is being funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Programme (Project: 13/04/22). The views and opinions are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the HTA programme, NIHR or the Department of Health.