Stillbirths advice for parents and medics published by NHS England


Advice for parents, doctors and midwives to help prevent stillbirths has been published for the first time by NHS England.

The Saving Babies' Lives Care Bundle includes information about reducing smoking during pregnancy, monitoring foetal growth and movement and monitoring the baby during labour.

One in every 200 babies is stillborn in the UK and there is around a 25% variation in stillbirth rates across England, according to NHS figures.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: "NHS maternity care is now the safest it's ever been, and most mums say they're cared for brilliantly.

"But that makes it all the more tragic and heart wrenching when for a small number of families something goes terribly wrong.

"We could however cut the chances of this happening if all pregnant mums were encouraged to quit smoking, if proper monitoring takes place during pregnancy, and if maternity providers listen carefully when pregnant women report worries about their baby's movements."

An information and advice leaflet on reduced foetal movement will also be given to all expectant mothers by week 24 of their pregnancy.

The initiative aims to halve the rate of stillbirths by 2030 and is the first time guidance has been issued specifically for reducing baby deaths during pregnancy.

There are currently more than 3,000 stillbirths out of around 665,000 babies born in England each year, according to the NHS.

The guidance was developed by NHS England working with organisations including the Royal College of Midwives, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, British Maternal and Foetal Medicine Society and Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity.

Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said it is "unacceptable" that England has a worse stillbirth rate than other countries in western Europe and called on the Government to invest in more midwives.

"Midwives and other staff must have the time to spend with women and they must have the time to attend training," she added.

"Having the right number of midwives will also contribute to continuity of care and carer; in women seeing the same midwife or small number of midwives.

"England remains 2,600 full time midwives short of the number it needs. So whilst this guidance is welcome and valuable, we must have the right numbers of staff to ensure it is implemented correctly."