MRC Centre for Reproductive Health
MRC Logo JAN 2019

Dr Sarah Stock

Research themes, background, grants, prizes and awards.

Dr Sarah Stock

Reader, Senior Clinical Lecturer in Maternal and Fetal Health

  • Honorary Consultant and Subspecialist in Maternal and Fetal Medicine

Contact details



The Queen’s Medical Research Institute
Edinburgh BioQuarter
47 Little France Crescent

Post Code
EH16 4TJ

Research focus

The main focus of my research is preterm birth, which remains one of the big challenges in obstetrics. In the UK around 50,000 births are preterm, and the effects of preterm birth are lifelong. I am particularly interested in how infections and inflammation can lead to premature labour and damage to the developing baby. My aim is to develop better ways of diagnosing preterm labour and intrauterine inflammation and find new treatments to prevent complications.

Tommy’s Lothian Preterm Birth Clinic

Research themes

  • Diagnosing in utero inflammation and predicting preterm birth: Developing new methods to detect fetal inflammation and diagnose preterm labour.
  • Cationic Host Defence Peptides in pregnancy: Investigating how naturally produced antimicrobial peptides might protect against preterm birth
  • HPV and preterm labour: Studying how human papilloma virus infection can lead to preterm labour
  • Environmental effects on pregnancy: Investigating how the intrauterine environment affects development, and identifying strategies to improve outcomes
  • Clinical trials: testing treatments to prevent preterm labour


I am a consultant obstetrician, and sub-specialist in maternal fetal medicine. In my clinical practice I have a special interest in preterm birth prevention and management of intrauterine growth restriction, which remain big challenges. Looking after families affected by these problems has inspired me to perform research into preterm birth prevention.

My research experience includes laboratory studies, preclinical research, epidemiological studies and clinical trials.

My PhD, performed in the Jennifer Brown research Laboratory investigated the production and function of antimicrobial peptides in pregnancy. Ongoing work in this are has suggested modulating antimicrobial peptides might be a strategy to prevent preterm labour. Together with other researchers at the Edinburgh Tommy's Centre we have developed a new mouse model of preterm labour to investigate this further.

During my training I undertook a fellowship at the University of Western Australia School of Women's and Infant's Health. I continue to collaborate with researchers there, developing new ways to diagnose fetal inflammation, and how to optimise anti-inflammatory treatments to prevent fetal damage using a sheep model of pregnancy.

In Scotland we have a unique opportunities to use Scottish population health data to explore the effects of the pregnancy environment on development. I have previously used the Scottish birth databases to explore the effects of induction of labour on perinatal outcomes. New collaborations through the Farr institute and ADRC will allow studies of environmental factors and HPV infection on pregnancy outcomes.

Research group

  • Sara Van Boeckel, PhD student

Principal collaborators

  • Donald Davidson, Julia Dorin 
(MRC Centre for Inflammation Research, University of Edinburgh)
  • Matt Kemp, John Newnham (School of Women and Infants Health, University of Western Australia)
  • Alan Jobe, Suhas Kallapur (Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, USA)
  • Basky Thilaganathan (St George’s, University of London)
  • Chris Dibben (ADRC, University of Edinburgh)
  • Phil Bennet, David MacIntyre (Imperial College London)


2017/18    NERC/ MRC Grant Improving Health Care with Environmental Data (£64,238)-Environmental determinants of IVF treatment (Co-Investigator)

2016- 2018    Gapps GRAND CHALLENGES IN GLOBAL HEALTH: Preventing Preterm Birth initiative –A Systems Biology Approach to Pregnancy and Prematurity. Microbiome Metabalome Interactions in Women at Risk of Preterm Birth (Co-Investigator)

2015- 2018    National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment Program (£865,000). QUIDS: Quantitative Fetal Fibronectin to help decision making in women with symptoms of preterm labour (Chief Investigator)

2015- 2016    SPARKs Innovation Grant (£27,922) Advanced ultrasound as a non-invasive diagnostic test of fetal inflammation: A proof of principle study (Chief Investigator)

2014- 2018   National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment Program (£1.3 million). STOPPIT 2: An open randomised trial of the Arabin pessary to prevent preterm birth in twin pregnancy, with health economics and acceptability (Co-Investigator)

2014    British Maternal and Fetal Medicine Society Bursary (£4,940). New Ultrasound techniques to Diagnose Fetal Inflammatory Syndrome  (Chief Investigator)

2013-2017 Chief Scientist Office, Scotland (£225,000) – Does promoting increased awareness of decreased fetal movements reduce stillbirth – a stepped wedge cluster randomised trial? (Co-Investigator)

2012-2103 Women and Infant’s Research Foundation, Western Australia ($14,605 AUD) – Production and Function of Amniotic Fluid Cationic Host Defence Peptides (Chief Investigator)

2011-2013 Jennifer Brown Research Fund (£17,504) – The Effects of Vitamin D on Antimicrobial Protein Production in Pregnancy  (Chief Investigator)

2010-2013 Albert McKern Bequest (£29,850) – Hormonal Profiles in twin pregnancy (Chief Investigator)

Prizes and awards

  1. Jan 2014  Richard Johanson Bursary British Maternal and Fetal Medicine Society To fund research into ultrasound markers of the fetal inflammatory response syndrome
  2. August 2011 Bernhard Baron Travelling Fellowship 2012 Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists For travel to The School of Women’s and Infants Health at the University of Western Australia, King Edward’s Hospital, Perth, Western Australia, for research in preterm labour.
  3. July 2011 Edinburgh Bioquarter Innovations Prize “pH test”