Sadly, the death of a baby is not a rare tragedy: around 15 babies died before, during or soon after birth every day in the UK in 2017. In this section we look at the rate of baby death in the UK, and explore why babies die and what we can do to reduce the rate of stillbirth and neonatal death.
Baby deaths in the UK
The death of a baby is not rare. Every day in the UK around 15 babies die before, during or soon after birth. That means every 90 minutes a family is faced with the devastation of the death of their baby. This is unacceptable.
So it’s shocking that a lack of dedicated bereavement rooms on maternity wards means mums and dads have nowhere private to spend precious time with their baby before they have to say goodbye.
"We need to make sure that we reduce the number of babies dying every day before, during and shortly after birth; we need to make sure that everyone affected by the death of a baby receives the best possible bereavement care wherever they live; and we need to make sure that the amazing support that we, as Sands, offer reaches everyone who needs it." - Clea Harmer, Sands CEO
Or that gaps in training for health professionals mean parents whose hopes and happiness have been shattered are sent home without a sensitive explanation about why their baby died.
New annual stillbirth statistics
New figures from the Office for National Statics (ONS) show that while stillbirth rates are falling overall in England, stillbirths continue to be significantly higher in areas of social deprivation.
Stillbirth rates in Wales have also fallen. While a similar difference according to social deprivation wasn’t seen, it’s probable that the smaller numbers of losses mean the difference between areas within Wales is likely to be less stark. We know from ONS and other data sources that social inequalities in stillbirths persist across the UK. We’re glad to see the new NHS England Long Term Plan prioritise tackling inequalities in baby deaths over the next decade.
The ONS also looks at the age of mothers who have a stillborn baby. While stillbirth rates remained highest amongst older mums over 40, the rates in this age group in 2017 were lower compared with 1997 and 2007. Women aged under 20 years have the next highest rates of stillbirth. In 2017 the stillbirth rate was slightly higher for this group than in 2007. But numbers of deaths for this age group are small so the changes may be due to random fluctuations rather than an underlying trend.