‘Much more to do’ on stillbirth says RCM on new report
Today (Thursday, 22nd June) a report from MBRACE-UK finds that the stillbirth rate in the UK has reduced by almost 8% over the period 2013 to 2015. A current Government ambition is to halve the rates of stillbirth and neonatal death in England by 2030.
Commenting on the findings, Mandy Forrester, Head of Quality and Standards at the Royal College of Midwives, said: “This is a welcome reduction and things are moving in the right direction but there is still much more to do if we are going to match the lower stillbirth rates of other European countries.
“There is rightly a need to tackle neonatal death rates which have not fallen as much as the stillbirth rate. However, there is clearly a need to put even greater efforts into reducing both.
“The variation in stillbirth rates across the UK remains a concern. This could be because of the socio-economic wellbeing of communities, and we know inequality is linked to higher stillbirth rates and poorer outcomes for the baby. It may also be in the quality of local services and this needs investigation. It is imperative that we learn from each of these tragic deaths. Health services must strive to learn from each other about the best ways to prevent this. Sharing success stories and strategies is key to this.
“Some of these deaths will be avoidable and for all losses, we must never lose sight of the devastating impact a tragedy like this will have on parents and families, who will need skilled bereavement care. It is also a concern that some midwives undertaking bereavement care are having the number of hours they can perform this role reduced.
"We also need to be ensuring women get continuity of carer – that is the woman seeing the same midwife or small group of midwives throughout and after her pregnancy. This way the midwife will get to know the woman and will be more readily able to spot changes in her condition. Fragmented care in pressurised and overstressed services means that things can be missed.
“The RCM fully supports the campaigns by governments across the UK to reduce still births and neonatal deaths. We call for these efforts to be fully resourced including sufficient midwives and funds for care according to guidelines such as ultrasound scanning as needed and glucose tolerance tests amongst others. We also need to continue to educate and communicate with parents to be aware of the importance of reporting quickly any changes in their baby's pattern of fetal movements.
“There is also a pressing need for greater efforts around support for smoking cessation for the woman and others in the household who smoke. Smoking is a major contributor to stillbirths. Tackling and reducing smoking in pregnancy will be critical in any efforts to reduce stillbirths. Cuts to public health budgets are making it increasingly difficult for women to access these type of services.
“Quite rightly we recognise there is a focus on stillbirth reduction, but perhaps an unintended consequence of this is that we are hearing reports of increases in intervention such as induction of labour. In addition to monitoring perinatal mortality and morbidity in women, we would like the effects of interventions on the wellbeing and long term outlook for the mother to have similar attention.”
To contact the RCM Press Office call 020 7312 3456, or email [email protected].
Notes to editors
The RCM is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team. We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences and online resources. For more information visit the RCM website at https://www.rcm.org.uk/.