The number of stillbirths is twice as common in women from poor areas compared to their more affluent neighbours, researchers have found.
A study, looking at stillbirths across England, also found that women from deprived areas were three-times more likely to suffer a stillbirth if they had a bleed before their due date.
Similarly, stillbirths attributed to congenital abnormalities were nearly three times more likely among women from poor areas.
The authors of the study said the inequality gap was the same across eight years of research.
The research, published in the online journal BMJ Open, assessed the number of stillbirths in England between 2000 and 2007. Each year there were 44 stillbirths for every 10,000 births.
“We have shown wide socio-economic inequalities in the rate of stillbirth with rates twice as high in the most deprived areas compared with the least deprived,” the authors said.
“If the stillbirth rates seen in the least deprived areas were seen throughout the population, there would be a third fewer stillbirths in England, nearly 900 fewer every year.
Jane Brewin, chief executive of baby charity Tommy’s, said: “It doesn’t come as a big surprise that the most disadvantaged mums are more likely to suffer a stillbirth, as we know certain lifestyle factors and underlying health conditions can have a big impact on pregnancy complications.
“What this study helps to highlight is that we don’t know enough about why so many parents suffer the sudden death of their baby, and to compound that, we aren’t able to explain to many parents why their baby died.
“What we need now is more research and support for these women - Tommy’s aims to find those mums most at risk so we can monitor them much more closely, and to help raise awareness amongst mums-to-be of staying healthy during pregnancy and what the warning signs of possible pregnancy problems can be.”
- Seaton SE et al. Socioeconomic inequalities in the rate of stillbirths by cause: a population-based study. BMJ 2012; Advance online publication.