PREGNANT women from Carlisle have been involved in a national research project that is helping to reduce the risk of miscarriage.

The Cumberland Infirmary was chosen as one of several hospitals in England to take part in the study - and the results are now influencing the way women are treated.

The PRISM study was led by researchers in Birmingham and aimed to recruit more than 4,000 women in total.

In Carlisle, the work was coordinated by Laura Hipple, associate specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology, and Rachel Hardy, research midwife.

Laura explained that those eligible to take part were women in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy who presented with early bleeding.

The PRISM study was looking at whether a high dose of progesterone, given at that stage, could help to prevent miscarriage and increase the chances of the pregnancy reaching 34 weeks.

Rachel explained that those who agreed, were given a 400mg progesterone pessary or a placebo - which posed no risk to the baby.

It was a blind trial, so they will never know whether they had the real thing or not.

But the results are already influencing the way pregnant women are cared for, and helping to reduce miscarriages here and across the country.

“We are extremely grateful to all those who agreed to take part," said Rachel.

"They did not know if they were going to benefit, but their involvement is going to help lots of other women."

Laura explained that bleeding in early pregnancy is not uncommon and doesn’t always lead to miscarriage.

The study aimed to determine whether a high-dose of the hormone drug would benefit all women in this situation, some groups of women or have no effect.

In Carlisle, a total of 31 women took part. The numbers were small compared to other hospitals as it is a smaller centre and only a specific group of women qualified.

Following the treatment, they were cared for as normal - with the same number of scans and appointments as deemed appropriate.

The research team then followed their progress and recorded the outcome of the pregnancy, including how many weeks they delivered at.

That information was then fed back to the national research team, and the results have been published.

Laura said: "It was very interesting. If we looked at the whole group it didn't show any benefit, but when you analyse the subgroups, we found that women who have had a previous miscarriage can benefit - and particularly women who have had three or more miscarriages.

"For these groups of women, it can increase the chance of a live birth by 15 per cent."

The drug is already licensed and used mainly for IVF pregnancies. However, it can now be targeted at other women who will benefit.

"Before this trial there was no real evidence. Now we know which women it benefits," said Laura.

She added that every woman can reduce the risk of miscarriage by stopping smoking and being a normal weight before getting pregnant.