latest health care news

18.01.12

1,200 avoidable stillbirths each year

A new report on stillbirths has found that up to 1,200 baby deaths could be avoided each year with better care.

17 babies are stillborn or die before they are one month old every day in theUK.

‘Preventing Babies’ Deaths: what needs to be done’ was published today by the charity Sands, recommending steps to tackle the country’s high stillbirth rate.

The number of stillbirths in theUKhas not changed in over a decade and the charity is calling on the Government to tackle issues relating to public health, including further research into the causes of stillbirth, to help prevent all avoidable deaths in future.

Research into scans and tools to identify at-risk babies is a recommendation of the report, as is increasing public awareness.

Neal Long, chief executive of Sands, said: “The scale of baby deaths in theUKis shocking. A third of stillborn babies – around 1,200 – are born late in pregnancy (after 37 weeks gestation) at gestations when they might be safely be delivered. But routine antenatal care is failing to detect far too many babies who need help.”

The major causes of stillbirth are problems with the placenta, congenital malformations and maternal medical problems, although a third of cases cannot currently be explained. Many cases are associated with mothers with excess weight, who smoke or who are over 35.

The report says: “Around 500 babies die every year because of a trauma or event during birth that was not anticipated or well managed. These deaths, when they occur at term, should never happen and almost always could be avoided with better care.”

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) suggested that all practitioners involved in maternity care should be aware of the risks associated with stillbirth and work to understand how it can be reduced.

Gail Johnson, education and professional development advisor at the RCM, said: “Ensuring that all mothers have access to high quality antenatal care delivered by midwives is the first step towards having a healthy mother and baby at the end of pregnancy.

“However, to ensure that antenatal care and parenting education is appropriately delivered we need to have enough midwives to deliver the care.

“Current antenatal screening cannot identify all babies at risk, and research into how best midwives and doctors can deliver antenatal care to reduce stillbirth is welcomed.”

Public health minister Anne Milton said: “We continue to invest in research into the factors linked to stillbirth through the National Institute for Health Research’s ongoing programme on women’s health.”

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