- The Office for National Statistics recorded 3.8 stillbirths per 1,000 births last year
- This was the lowest level since the data began to be collected in 1927.
- Stillbirth rate has been trending downward for years, data show
- Sources said it is not clear whether the pandemic has slowed this decline
As official figures came out today, stillbirths fell to their lowest rate amid the COVID pandemic.
Last year in England and Wales just 3.8 stillbirths were recorded for every 1,000 live births. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said it was the lowest since records began in 1927.
The rate of stillbirth has declined steadily over the past few decades thanks to medical improvements.
But the health watchdog was asked last year to review a ‘concerning’ spike between April and June – the peak of the first wave.
The findings of the investigation were released last week, warning that a lack of in-person appointments could lead to a slight increase in one type of stillbirth.
The charity today welcomed the drop in figures, which reflect the entirety of 2020. But he warned that more needed to be done.
As part of a campaign to make the NHS the safest place in the world to give birth, ministers pledged to halve stillbirths by 2025.
Measures include better fetal monitoring during pregnancy and birth, and reducing smoking rates among pregnant women.
Over 610,000 births were recorded last year, of which 2,371 were stillbirths. For comparison, there were 640,000 registered in 2019, which was the previous record low.
Stillbirths in England and Wales have fallen to their lowest level since records began in 1927, according to data from the Office for National Statistics
Dr Joe Mountfield, Consultant Obstetrician and Vice President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG), told TODAY: ‘In recent years, we have seen a steady decline in the number of stillbirths in England and Wales, and this is the latest data from the long term. in line with the trend.
‘RCOG has been instrumental in improving care with its Every Child Counting programme.
‘It is encouraging to see that this continues to decline, especially given the COVID-pandemic, and the continued pressure it has put on all healthcare services.
‘We understand that the pandemic has caused a lot of anxiety among pregnant women.
Lack of face-to-face appointments could lead to 88% increase in stillbirths in England
The lack of in-person appointments during the pandemic could lead to an increase in stillbirths, a damning report warned last week.
The Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch said stillbirths were 88 per cent higher than pre-Covid levels last year.
Its investigation in 37 cases found that the move to remote appointments ‘inhibited’ the ability to conduct critical investigations.
Last week a senior coroner ruled that a lack of face-to-face GP appointments contributed to the deaths of five people.
There are now a third fewer people seeing their GPs in person than before the pandemic and millions of appointments were ‘lost’ during the COVID crisis.
GPs were urged to conduct all consultations remotely and strongly encouraged not to invite patients to an in-person appointment unless they deemed it an emergency.
But trusts continue to encourage the practice more than a year after the original lockdown, with doctors offering bonuses to keep attendance low.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid fired a warning shot at GPs in the Commons earlier this week, saying: ‘GPs should offer face-to-face access.’
‘We hope this continued decline will reassure women that maternity staff and services are continuing to provide safe and high quality care.
‘While these figures are declining, any child death is a tragedy, and we continue to work towards the goal of reducing stillbirths by 50 percent by 2025.
‘Women who have concerns about the health of themselves or their child – including the movements of the child – should seek medical advice immediately.’
Clay Harmer, chief executive officer of stillbirth and neonatal death charity Sands, said: ‘Today’s ONS figures confirm that rates continue to fall in England and Wales, which is good news.
‘But despite recent reforms, the current trajectory in reducing stillbirth rates means the government has come a long way in achieving its national maternity security ambition to reduce stillbirths and neonatal deaths by 50 percent by 2025. Will decide.
This comes after the Health Protection Investigation Branch last week published a report on the rise in stillbirths at the start of the pandemic.
The watchdog was asked to review the situation as there was an 88 per cent increase in intrapartum stillbirths between April and June, from 24 in 2019 to 45 in the same period last year.
Most of the stillbirth deaths were due to problems with the placenta and disturbances in the flow of blood to the baby.
Nineteen infants had no signs of life at the first visit to the hospital during delivery. But 11 of these women had contacted over the telephone for advice and were advised to stay at home.
In one case, the mother chose not to attend the appointment for fear of contracting coronavirus at the clinic.
The HSIB’s report stated: ‘The proportion of remote consultations is not known and the effect of remote consultations is not clear … However, there was evidence that distance consultations hindered some activities.
‘Notably, there were fewer opportunities for physical examinations, thereby limiting the opportunity to establish trends [growth] Measurement.’
Investigators said the pandemic has reduced the continuity of care for women who have failed to see the same midwife at each appointment.
The disruption also meant that staff were sometimes unable to access patient records needed to inform clinical decision-making during consultations.