More than 4,000 babies are stillborn in the UK each year, making this country’s stillbirth record one of the worst in the developed world.
Women in certain regions of the UK are also significantly more likely to give birth to a stillborn child, with the chances of stillbirth in the Midlands a third greater than in the south-west, according to national statistics.
The figures have prompted the head of a leading stillbirth and neonatal death charity to warn that the situation could get worse as health authorities look to make savings on services in the future.
Neal Long, chief executive of Sands, said: “Many mums in the UK have increasingly complex pregnancies. This, coupled with already stretched maternity services, entering an era of budget cuts, could spell disaster for many more babies and their families.”
The 3.5 stillbirths per 1,000 babies born in the UK is the equivalent of 11 a day, the research reveals. It places the UK 33rd out of 193 countries in the list, lower than almost all of the world’s richer nations.
The figure, 10 times the toll of cot deaths and more than the number of people killed on the roads, has remained largely unchanged in a decade.
Authors of the report published in The Lancet medical journal said stillbirth had been an “invisible” problem that was largely ignored.
They called for a worldwide focus on prevention strategies such as improved access to good obstetric care and screening to identify women at risk.
Common causes of stillbirth include congenital malformations, maternal medical problems and birth complications and infections. However, up to a third of cases cannot be explained.
Risk factors for women include being over 35 years of age, carrying excess weight, smoking, alcohol or drug abuse, teenage pregnancy and multiple pregnancies, belonging to an ethnic minority group and social deprivation.
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