Celebrating women

 Written by: Lynn Sykes

Thursday 8th March marks International Women’s day, which provides an opportunity to highlight the diverse roles and achievements of women throughout society. As a specialist in Obstetrics and Gynaecology and a clinical researcher focused on understanding the causes of preterm birth, I am continually reminded of the resolve, courage and adaptability of women as they move through the unpredictable journey of pregnancy. To celebrate this with Genesis Research Trust and Imperial College London it is worth sharing some of the great achievements of women who have, and continue to influence our research into preterm labour.

As part of a larger team based in the Institute of Reproductive and Developmental Biology in Imperial College, we have begun to make important steps toward the unravelling of the role of infection and inflammation in causing the onset of premature labour. Recent research from Dr Lindsay Kindinger, which was funded by Genesis Research Trust, has helped identify specific types of bacteria in the reproductive tract of women that can put women at higher risk of preterm birth. Pamela Pruski and Dr Holly Lewis have helped develop a new technique that allows these bacteria to be rapidly identified. A key part of this successful research is the donation of samples from women during pregnancy who attend our preterm birth prevention clinics. We are also indebted to those women who donate their placentas to research and enable us to improve our understanding of this incredible organ in protected the baby from infectious viruses and bacteria during pregnancy. Despite this progress, we still have a long way to go before we can claim to have found a cure for preterm birth.

However, we are very excited to announce our new alliance with eminent female scientists within Imperial College as part of the recently formed March of Dimes European Preterm Birth Research Centre. Professors Ten Feizi, FMedSci and Anne Dell CBE, FRS, FMedSci will help to understand how both good and bad types of bacterial cells grow and communicate with each other within the reproductive tract. An important part of this work will also involve understanding how the mother’s immune system can recognise and react appropriately to these bacteria. This work will be undertaken with Professor Marina Botto, FMedSci and Dr Pascale Kropf. What better day than International Women’s day to celebrate this new partnership with these distinguished female scientists from Imperial College!

I would also like to acknowledge the role of Professor Lesley Regan, Director of the Women’s Health Research Centre at Imperial College and ambassador for the science and practice of obstetrics and gynaecology in her elected role as President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Despite being the 30th President, she is only the second woman to hold this role, and the first in sixty-four years. She has inspired many female clinicians and scientists, including myself, and her continued support for our research into solving the problem of preterm labour is invaluable.

Finally, let us commend the support that our research group receives from women who have experienced preterm birth. These women form a critical part of our patient and public involvement group that feed our momentum in the mission to find a cure for preterm birth. We are deeply grateful to these women who have the eagerness and strength to come together to help find a cure for preterm birth so that other women don’t have the same experience. Let’s celebrate how women, regardless of occupation, ethnicity, post code, or financial security are actively supporting International Women’s day 2018: #Pressforprogress…… As women press on, women will progress to finding a cure for preterm birth.