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Drive to reduce stillbirths

19 January, 2016

Drive to reduce stillbirths

Further action to reduce stillbirths is needed – and midwifery has a vital role to play, it was stated.

The news came this morning at the launch of the Lancet – Ending Preventable Stillbirths Series.

The series calls for action from all countries and continents across the world – from sub-Saharan Africa to UK.

Soo Downe, professor in midwifery studies, was a panellist at the launch event, which took place this morning (19 January) at the RCOG in London.  

‘We have evidence that continuous midwifery-led care, particularly in high-income countries, is associated with a reduction in phenomenon that are related to stillbirth,’ she said.

‘We need the government to pay attention to the research evidence and put it into practice, particularly when it comes to respectful maternity care.’

Among the key findings from the series are that an estimated 2.6 million stillbirths occur naturally, of which 98% are in low- and middle-income countries.

Half of stillbirths globally occur during labour and birth, and most are from preventable conditions, such as maternal infections, non-communicable diseases and obstetric complications.

The UK is ranked number 24 out the 49 high-income countries in the report. 

Iceland is best performer globally, with 1.3 stillbirths per 1000 births, while Pakistan has the highest rate at 43.1.

The series calls for actions to accelerate the reduction in stillbirths. This includes international leadership to drive the agenda forward and an increased voice for women.

Lousie Silverton, the RCM’s director for midwifery, and the RCM president Lesley Page were both at the launch.

Louise said: 'This is a welcomed report, but looking at it from a UK perspective it is disappointing. The research shows that the UK has a lot more to do to tackle preventable stillbirths.

‘The variation that exists is unacceptable in 2016 and when you compare the UK to other European countries of similar economic development and income level we compare quite poorly.

‘Attention to preventing stillbirths in approach to term and 36 weeks plus must be improved. The UK needs to do more to address health inequalities and to reduce stillbirths in areas of social deprivation.

‘Access to smoking cessation services for fathers and other family members could help women to stop smoking reducing risks of both stillbirth and improving the health outcomes for the baby after birth.’

For more inform on the Lancet series, click here.

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