Report suggests that as many as 600 stillbirths a year could be avoided with appropriate medical care
Lawyers from the medical negligence team at Leigh Day have joined calls for urgent action to tackle the issues highlighted in a report which claims that 60% of stillbirths at full-term are potentially avoidable.
The Perinatal Confidential Enquiry Report 2015 produced by a team of academics, clinicians and charity representatives called MBRRACE-UK alleges that the shocking statistic is the result of major failings in the care of pregnant women and their babies.
Every year in the UK approximately 1,000 pregnancies, which have reached full- term and the baby has no congenital abnormality, result in a stillbirth.
The team from MBRRACE-UK, led by experts from the University of Leicester, carefully reviewed 133 cases of still birth from 2013.
Almost half of women in the study had sought help from midwives and doctors over concerns over their baby's movements but some were turned away, the report found.
The expert inquiry found that in other cases the baby's heart rate was monitored but readings were misinterpreted by medical staff.
Experts also found a widespread failure to follow national guidelines on checking the growth of babies during pregnancy.
In 2013, the UK had one of the highest rates of stillbirth in Europe (4.7 per 1,000 total births).
Judith Abela, acting chief executive of the charity Sands, said:
"One in three babies who are stillborn die at term, a time when they are likely to have survived outside the womb had they been safely delivered earlier. This equates to over 1,000 babies in 2013.
"Jeremy Hunt pledged last Friday to halve the stillbirth rate by 2030. But this report tells us hundreds of deaths could be avoided today simply by applying existing antenatal guidelines.
"It's particularly worrying that so many women's concerns about changes in their baby's movements are not being taken seriously and that a baby's poor growth is not being spotted by simple checks."
Leigh Day regularly acts on behalf of bereaved parents who have suffered a stillbirth as a result of the exact sorts of failures the report highlights.
Most recently the team acted on behalf of a woman, known as Mrs S, following claims that the negligent ante-natal care she received led to the stillbirth of her baby girl.
Leigh Day investigated the case and alleged that the midwife acted negligently in failing to record the fundal height measurement, a measure of the size of the uterus used to assess fetal growth and development during pregnancy, at the 35 and 37 week appointments.
Lawyers claimed that the midwife failed to advise Mrs S as to the significance of monitoring fetal movements.
Only after the law firm was involved did Mrs S reach settlement with the hospital.
Fiona Huddleston, a lawyer in the medical negligence team at Leigh Day who represented Mrs S, said:
“This report shows the extent of avoidable deaths in babies at full term, sadly, we are not surprised. “We have acted for many women who have lost their child and our investigations have revealed a list of errors which, had they not occurred, a baby would not have lost their life.
“Often litigation against the hospital is the only way in which women can find out what mistakes were made and what could have been done to save their baby, this should not be the case.”