Call for action over stillbirth rate

More could - and should - be done to reduce the rate of stillbirths in Wales, according to the National Assembly's Health and Social Care committee. The Welsh Government says it is working with the NHS to reduce the stillbirth rate.

Latest ITV News reports

Neonatologist: 'Some babies are dying unnecessarily'

Professor Sailesh Kotecha is a Neonatologist at Cardiff University and believes more research is needed into stillbirths.

He told ITV Wales: "The rate of stillbirths in Wales is somewhere between 4.5 - 5 per thousand births. That means some 170 babies are dying unnecessarily in many cases.

"We can do better. If you look at the rates of stillbirth in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries, it's half of what we have here in Wales and the rest of the UK."

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Raising awareness of stillbirth should be a priority

The National Assembly's health and social care committee makes nine recommendations in its report, including that the Welsh Government:

  • takes an active lead in developing key public health messages as a matter of priority
  • works with professional bodies and health boards to ensure that all expectant parents receive adequate information about stillbirth and associated risks
  • commissions work on the underlying causes of stillbirth

It is crucial that we have more continuity of care in maternity services. When women know their midwives they are more likely to be able to discuss difficult issues such as stillbirths. The midwife is also more likely to spot problems developing during the pregnancy.

– Julia Chandler, Royal College of Midwives

The Welsh Government says it is working with the NHS to reduce the stillbirth rate and the National Stillbirth Working Group is working as part of the Welsh Initiative for Stillbirth Reduction to improve outcomes in pregnancy.

Smoking during pregnancy and maternal obesity are avoidable risk factors, and these are being addressed via the Welsh Government's Strategic Vision for Maternity Services in Wales.

Family history and a whole range of other clinical details are part of the clinical review of every stillbirth undertaken by the All Wales Perinatal Survey, and we want data gathering to continue to be as comprehensive as possible to increase our knowledge about avoidable factors.

– Welsh Government spokesperson

Wales' stillbirth rate 'barely changed' since 1990s

More could and should be done to reduce the rate of stillbirths in Wales according to the National Assembly's health and social care committee. The committee says the Welsh Government must do more to raise awareness of the stillbirths.

Assembly members found that while neonatal and infant mortality rates have improved over the last 10 years, stillbirth rates have barely changed since the early 1990s. The committee said there is no single remedy, but the Welsh Government needs to concentrate on smalls steps towards improvement.

The stillbirth of a child is a tragedy which devastates families. Yet, as a population, our awareness of stillbirth - particularly its causes and what can be done to prevent it - is worryingly low.

As a Committee we are in no doubt that the current rate of stillbirths in Wales can be reduced.

More needs to be done to raise public and professional awareness of stillbirth and the risk factors that contribute towards it.

Greater effort is also needed to understand the underlying causes of stillbirth, particularly with over half of all deaths currently classified as 'unexplained.'

– Mark Drakeford AM, Health and Social Care Committee chairman