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12.04.16

‘Unacceptable variation’ in West Midlands perinatal and infant mortality rates

Perinatal and infant mortality levels are “unacceptable” in the West Midlands due to factors including poor maternal health, according to new research.

The latest report from Public Health England shows that although the stillbirth rate in England decreased from 5.3 to 4.6 for every 1,000 births in 2000 to 2014, in the West Midlands it only decreased from 5.6 to 5.0.

In 2012-14, there were also inequalities in stillbirth rates within the region, with rates reaching 6.9 in Herefordshire, 6.0 in Sandwell and 5.5 in Birmingham but 3.3 in Warwickshire.

In the same period, the perinatal mortality rate was 7.9 in the West Midlands, 10.5 in Sandwell, 9.8 in Birmingham and 9.0 in Wolverhampton, compared to 6.8 in England. The infant mortality rate was 5.5 in the West Midlands, 7.2 in Birmingham, 6.9 in Stoke-on-Trent, and 6.8 in Walsall, compared to 4.0 in England.

The report says: “Although there have been some improvements in infant and perinatal mortality in the West Midlands, there remain unacceptable variation and health inequalities across local authorities.”

It linked this to higher than average rates of risk factors including smoking while pregnant (14.2% of mothers in the West Midlands did this, compared to an English average of 11.4%), under-16 conceptions (5.5 for every 1,000 in the West Midlands compared to 4.8 in England), and mothers not breastfeeding (33.2% against 25.7%).

The report says that the NHS, local authorities and other local bodies should work together to provide better early years support to improve infant and maternal health.

The NHS have set a target of reducing the current stillbirth rate to 2.3 by 2030, and produced new guidelines to help achieve this.

The latest National Maternity Review found half of all stillbirths had an element of care which may have made a difference to the outcome.

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