New figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show a decline in the number of stillbirths for last year, but more can be done claims the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).
In 2016, the rate of stillbirths in England and Wales fell to its lowest level since 1992 to 4.4 per 1,000 births.
Despite this progress, Louise Silverton, Director for Midwifery at the RCM, has said: ‘The reduction is stillbirths is very welcome and shows that we are making progress. However, we need to do even better.’
Gestation age makes a big difference when it comes to stillbirths, with rates reducing significantly with increasing gestation age. In 2016, the rate of stillbirths for babies born at 24 weeks was 356 per 1000, compared to 1.2 at a gestation age of 40 weeks.
Moreover, many lifestyle choices also affect the chance of having stillbirths. For example, smoking and unhealthy diets increase the risks substantially.
‘Reducing smoking in pregnancy and levels of obesity, among other things, will contribute towards reducing stillbirths, so more investment is needed in these areas,’ added Silverton.
The new statistics also showed a drop in the number of home births – a small fall from 2.3% in 2012-2015 to 2.1% this year. There is not yet a reason why there has been this decline, with the RCM saying ‘we need to know why this is happening.’
‘We know many women are being denied this choice because of staffing shortages and resource issues, and this is not good enough. We need to ensure that those women who choose a home birth get the birth that they want,’ said Silverton.