Baby Loss Awareness Week takes place every year between 9 and 15 October. The aim of the campaign is to commemorate and raise awareness of stillborn and premature babies.
More than 60 charities, including Baby Lifeline, collaborate each year to support bereaved parents with a view to improving care and training for maternity healthcare professionals. By improving knowledge and skill, the charities aim to reduce neonatal mortality rates in the UK, which are sadly some of the highest in Europe. In 2016, the UK was ranked 24th out of 49 high income countries, with Poland, Croatia, Estonia and the Netherlands demonstrating lower rates of stillbirths. Over the past 10 years, Norway has also seen a significant reduction in its stillbirth rates, whilst the UK has plateaued. The Royal College of Midwives has warned that the UK faces a maternity care “time bomb” due to the shortage of midwives and a record number of older mother births putting maternity units under increased pressure.
Each year in the UK, approximately 1 in 233 babies are stillborn and 1 in 380 die within the first four weeks of birth. There can be many reasons why babies are stillborn, including complications during birth, maternal infections and disorders, fetal growth restriction, pre-eclampsia and congenital abnormalities. Baby Lifeline has launched a ‘Predict to Prevent’ campaign to raise awareness and provide training courses for maternity healthcare professionals to help identify high risk pregnancies. Greater knowledge of what risk factors maternity healthcare professionals should be identifying will hopefully lead to better standards of care and, ultimately, reduce mortality rates in the future.
Lyndsey Banthorpe, an associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches who works with bereaved families following stillbirths or premature deaths of their babies, said: “I have been involved in a number of cases where failures in the care provided to expectant mothers have been identified. In many of these circumstances, if risk factors were recognised earlier on in the pregnancy, action could have been taken which would have resulted in a different outcome.
“Our team is also instructed to act in cases where stillborn and premature deaths have occurred as a result of avoidable mistakes made during labour, such as when maternity unit professionals do not take the correct action during a difficult labour, or when action has been performed outside of acceptable time limits. We therefore fully support campaigns such as ‘Predict to Prevent’, which provides specialist training courses for maternity healthcare professionals.