The report, led by a group of academics and clinicians called MBRRACE-UK, looked at 85 stillbirths in detail and found care could have been better in two-thirds of cases.
A particular area of concern is that national guidelines for screening and monitoring the growth of two-thirds of the babies who died were not followed. Many women with a higher risk of stillbirth, such as those at risk of diabetes, had not been properly monitored, the researchers found.
Dr David Richmond, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), said it was "desperately disappointing" that the recommendations within the report were the same as those in a similar report of 15 years ago. Refusing to accept these stillbirths as "unavoidable tragedies", he said:
We can and should do better by the 1,000 families affected each year in the UK.
Professor Elizabeth Draper, Professor of Perinatal and Paediatric Epidemiology at University of Leicester, pointed out the "missed opportunities" in the provision of antenatal care, but praised midwives for the quality of their bereavement care:
We found examples of excellent bereavement care where midwives had provided long term support for families in a way that surpassed normal expectations, high quality interpreter services when these were needed as well as a high standard of post mortems.
In the UK today, almost one in every 200 babies is stillborn and one third of these occur when the pregnancy has reached full term.
Cathy Warwick, Chief Executive of The Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said:
The RCM welcomes this important report. It is imperative that it does not sit on the shelf but instead is translated into practice and service change. We owe it to women and their families to do everything we can to prevent avoidable antenatal stillbirths.
Health Minister, Ben Gummer, said:
“This is further evidence of the urgent need for change - we need to do everything we can to reduce the number of families going through the heartache of stillbirth and ensure the NHS is one of the very best and safest places to have a baby across the world.
“Last week we launched our ambition to halve stillbirths, neonatal deaths, maternal deaths and neonatal brain injuries, through cutting-edge technology and multi-disciplinary training. The MBRRACE-UK recommendations will help the NHS to further improve and shape future, safer care."
The study was carried out by a team of academics, clinicians and charity representatives, called MBRRACE-UK.
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