Inducing labour in older mothers may reduce the risk of stillbirth, according the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) in a new paper published today. The College’s Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) has published the paper, Induction of labour at term in older mothers, which looks at a collection of studies exploring the rising age of mothers and the effects on fetal and maternal outcomes.

The RCOG says numerous studies have shown a link between rising maternal age and the increased risk of obstetric complications including placental abruption, placenta praevia, postpartum haemorrhage and preterm delivery, and that advanced maternal age is also "strongly associated with an increased risk of stillbirth and neonatal death".

Data from these studies show the risk of stillbirth at 39-40 weeks gestation is doubled for women aged 40 years or over, and at 39 weeks gestation these women (40+ years) have a similar stillbirth risk to women aged in their late 20s at 41 weeks gestation.

In it’s response to the paper, Sands said that every year hundreds of stillbirths are potentially avoidable with better, more targeted care, and that the offer of induction to older women, which research has long shown are at greater risk of losing their baby just around the time when they are preparing for birth, could save babies’ lives.

"It is with enormous frustration and sadness that Sands too often hears from mums whose seemingly perfect baby dies at or beyond term. Sometimes it’s a first baby, in some cases it’s an IVF pregnancy and because of her age, that now bereaved mum may not go onto to have any more children. The offer of induction at term for older mums could save many families from the indescribable devastation of losing a precious child," said Charlotte Bevan, Sands Research & Prevention Advisor.

Sands comments are featured on the BBC online today: