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Paul Sankey: Why So Many Stillbirths in the UK?

The Lancet has reported that 4,000 babies die every year during the last month of pregnancy – 3.5 in every 1,000. Our rates are higher than those of 32 other countries. Among the wealthier nations only France and Austria do worse.So what makes the UK so poor? The reality is that we do not know. The vast majority are unrelated to any congenital abnormality. Obesity, smoking and age increase the risk and may explain one third of still births. However one third of deaths are unexplained.Some quite old research from the late 1990s concluded that poor maternity care contributed to half of stillbirths. It concluded that poor communication, poor record-keeping and failing to act in high-risk situations all played a role. An investigation into the deaths of 25 babies in the West Midlands found that all died as a result of poor care. 500 babies die in labour every year in the UK and the government’s chief medical officer, Liam Donaldson, has referred to these as 500 missed opportunities. So there are a number of reasons to think that clinical negligence plays a role in these tragic events.Some of the saddest situations my colleagues and I encounter in our work are dealing with the enormous sense of loss following the death of a baby, particular after months of excitement and high expectation for the parents. So the more we know from the sort of research published in the Lancet the better, in the hope that some parents in the future will avoid these terrible tragedies.Paul Sankey is a solicitor specialising in clinical negligence. If you or a member of your family have a clinical negligence enquiry please call our expert clinical negligence solicitors on 0800 916 9049, fill in our short online claim form or email and one of our specialist clinical negligence team will be in touch.