Every day, babies are stillborn in the UK that would have lived elsewhere
The UK doesn’t even make the top 100 countries for progress in reducing stillbirth.
The Lancet’s updated Stillbirth rates for 2015 (>28 weeks) place the UK as 24th internationally.
Too many babies dying
In absolute terms, more babies were stillborn in England and Wales last year than in 2000. The stillbirth rate is worse than Estonia, Croatia and Poland.
Over the last 15 years, the UK is lagging even further behind international peers, reducing rates by a negligible 1.4% per year. Other countries prove what is possible – the Netherlands stillbirth rate is 40% lower, yet reducing 4x faster!
UK is ranked 114th in the world...
by the Lancet, for progress in the last 15 years. The lack of coherent action on stillbirth, with thousands of babies dying unnecessarily ever year, is a national disgrace.
Many are born too late
A significant proportion are beyond full term, when they could have been delivered safely at negligable risk.
It doesn’t need to be like this.
How to stop babies dying:
The taboo around stillbirth needs to to broken, along with the sense of fatalism. Action and leadership is desperately needed:
Modern antenatal care
It’s the 21st century – yet after 20 weeks, ‘low risk’ babies only have their growth measured with a tape measure! Modern techniques described below are already saving lives.Read more
Adherence to standards
Many deaths occur because guidelines on growth and monitoring are not followed. Hospitals have been slow to adopt guidelines to reduce stillbirth.Read more
When a baby dies, it is vital that lessons are learned to save lives. But most stillbirths are not even treated as serious incidents by the NHS. Read more
Information to parents
Stillbirth is still a taboo subject and is rarely mentioned to parents. Giving accurate information about warning signs, such as changes in fetal movements, saves lives.
Stillborn babies have no human rights – an anomly in the law prevents coroners from investigating deaths, regardless of the circumstances.
Most stillbirths could be prevented with high quality care, but there is still much we do not know. Vital research is needed to fill the gaps and save lives.Read more
Modern techniques save lives if used
Customised growth charts
Each baby is unique – these charts are customised for each mother so that growth can be more accurately monitored. They cost almost nothing – and where used, they have cut the stillbirth rate by over 20%.
Ultrasound and doppler
Ultrasound scans are 3x as effective at detecting the babies most at risk. And use of doppler techniques to measure blood flow (which require no extra equipment) have reduced stillbirths by up to 50%.
CTG (continuous monitoring) can be used to identify babies in distress, but is frequently misinterpreted (and a leading source of failures). Computers can aid with interpretation, reducing the risk of human error. Read more
“There is a common misperception that many of the deaths are inevitable, but our research shows most stillbirths are preventable.
“These babies should not be born in silence, their parents should not be grieving in silence, and the international community must break the silence as they have done for maternal and child deaths.
“The message is loud and clear – shockingly slow progress on stillbirths is unacceptable.”Professor Joy Lawn, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, speaking to Sky News
- Birth Summary Tables – England and Wales 2014 (Published 15 July 2015). 3254 Stillbirths in 2014, 3203 stillbirths in 2000.
- National Records of Scotland Vital Events Reference Tables 2014 – Section 4: Stillbirths and infant deaths (Published 15 March 2015). 228 Stillbirths in 2014
- Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency – Stillbirths and Infant Deaths 2014. 81 Stillbirths in 2014
- ONS Unexplained Deaths in Infancy , England and Wales: 2013. 249 unexplained infant deaths in 2013
- Lancet Stillbirth Series 2011: Stillbirths: Where? When? Why? How to make the data count? (Web appendix)
- Lancet Ending Stillbirth Series 2016: Stillbirths: recall to action in high-income countries
- MBRRACE-UK 2015 Perinatal Confidential Enquiry: Term, singleton, normally-formed, antepartum stillbirth