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Concerning increase in stillbirth rates for a further year running

  • 11.08.2022
  • GillEdwards
  • Clinical-negligence, Opinion
  • Clinical negligence Stillbirth birth injury maternity care neonatal brain injury

The increase in the stillbirth rate in England and Wales for a further year running is concerning, particularly when considered in the context of the problems in maternity care generally. The stillbirth rate is seen as a measure of the safety of maternity services and the World Health Organisation states that “the majority of stillbirths could be prevented with quality and respectful care during childbirth."  

The government has committed to a 50% reduction in the number of stillbirths by 2025, but sadly the statistics are going in the wrong direction. This is despite several initiatives being put in place by NHS England to identify best practice and ensure that this is adopted in every Trust.

One of the initiatives is the “Saving Babies’ Lives Care Bundle” which is intended to reduce stillbirth and neonatal deaths by improving the management of four issues where a link has been identified:

  1. smoking in pregnancy
  2. detecting fetal growth restriction
  3. raising awareness of reduced fetal movement and
  4. improving effective monitoring in labour.

Sadly, in the maternity cases we deal with where a baby has died or suffered brain damage due to poor maternity care, we continue to see the same errors repeated year after year. There are still midwives and obstetricians who are failing to act on signs of reduced fetal growth and/or reduced fetal movement in the antenatal period, and/or to effectively monitor and act on concerns about the health of the baby in labour, including the interpretation of CTG traces.

On the NHS advice pages, the onus is placed on mothers to take steps to reduce the chances of stillbirth with sensible advice such as stopping smoking and eating healthily, but mothers and babies are still being let down by the standard of community and hospital maternity care which falls short in many cases.

Gill Edwards is a Partner in Clinical Negligence and a member of the Baby Lifeline Multi-Disciplinary Panel. Should you have any queries about this report or indeed any other aspect of clinical negligence and wish to speak to Gill or any other member of the team, please contact us on 0800 027 2557 or contact Gill directly.