Figures shared today by Sands highlight a worrying and unjust inequality in the risk of a baby dying in the UK.

Every day in the UK around 14 babies die before, during or soon after birth.

Sands estimates that had stillbirth and neonatal death rates for Black and Asian babies been the same as for White babies, 432 fewer babies would have died in 2019 in England and Wales.

This inequity is backed up by new analysis, released today by MBRRACE-UK, of the multidimensional effects of ethnicity, deprivation, and mother’s age on baby deaths in 2019 in the UK, which shows that multiple risk factors can combine to magnify the risk, deepening inequalities for some families.

Sands is calling on the Government to urgently fund an enquiry into Asian and Asian British baby deaths in the UK, as they have already for Black and Black British baby deaths.

The public can join the call for action by raising it with their MP today.

Health inequalities in relation to maternity outcomes have been known for over 70 years, yet we still lack evidence-based interventions to reduce these risks. Today’s statistics confirm the urgent need for action, and the government must set a target to reduce these clear inequalities in perinatal mortality.

This is a critical moment for maternity safety. Recent reports from the Health and Social Care Committee, the Ockenden Review of maternity services at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, and ongoing investigations at East Kent and Nottingham show just how much more must be done.

Funding a confidential enquiry into UK Asian baby deaths is a drop in the ocean financially when compared to the staggering £7.1 billion per year cost to the NHS of maternity compensation claims.

Despite recent improvements, the current trajectory in reducing the rate of stillbirths means the Government will be a long way off achieving their National Maternity Safety Ambition to reduce stillbirths and neonatal deaths by 50% by 2025.

- Clea Harmer, Chief Executive of Sands

Previous confidential enquiries have been crucial in driving down maternal and perinatal death rates in some groups. Currently, these essential enquiries only run every two years. Sands wants to see annual enquiries, also covering baby deaths linked to deprivation and those most highly impacted by the complex effects of inequality, as highlighted by today’s MBRRACE-UK Perinatal Mortality Surveillance Report.

Ksavi Joshi

Sands Ambassador Ksavi Joshi is a trained makeup artist and certified life coach who experienced post-natal depression after the unexpected death of her second son Shivai in 2015.

These statistics are so shocking and it’s vital that more is done to find out why babies from minority ethnic and socio-economically deprived backgrounds are at higher risk of dying before, during, or shortly after birth. Clearly there is a complex mix of risk factors and it’s important that people don’t feel scared or worried by today’s news. If anyone has concerns about their pregnancy or their baby I urge them to talk to their midwife or GP as soon as possible and don’t ever feel you are wasting their time.

As mum to Shivai, who died from an infection when he was just eight months old,  I know deeply the pain felt by any parent whose baby dies, and like all bereaved mothers I wish I could prevent this ever happening to anyone else. This should be one of the safest countries in the world in which to have a baby but today’s statistics make clear that we are a long way off that goal. That’s why I am backing Sands’ call on the Government to urgently fund an enquiry into Asian and British Asian baby deaths in the UK.

- Ksavi Joshi

Ethnicity is not the only issue here; it is known that social deprivation increases the risk of baby deaths and that four in every five babies from Black ethnic groups are born in areas of social deprivation.

Other factors that affect risk include maternal age, disability, language, immigration status, geography, domestic abuse and chronic health conditions. With multiple factors clearly affecting outcomes, every pregnant women needs ongoing assessment her individual circumstances and health, and care that fits around their personal needs. 

Read the full MRRACE-UK report

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