Lead researcher: Dr Carol Kingdon, University of Central Lancashire

Sum awarded: £23,436

Other funding: £20,927 Collaboration for leadership in Applied Health Research and Care North West Coast (NIHR CLAHRC NWC)

Duration of study: 6 months, starting September 2017

Why is this research needed?

This project has been designed in response to the need to do more to prevent stillbirth among women identified as from vulnerable groups and/or with complex social needs. In the UK, there are around 3,200 stillbirths each year. While this overall number is falling, the UK still has one of the highest stillbirth rates in the developed world and we don’t really know why. One of the things we do know is that pregnancies to women living in the poorest areas of the UK are over 50% more likely to end in stillbirth or neonatal death, compared with births to women living in the richest areas of the UK. We know some of this increased risk is because of smoking, being overweight, or not attending for regular antenatal care. But we know much less about how social factors such as living in poverty and experience of racism combine or interact with individual factors such as smoking and diet, and biological factors, such as infection and disease to contribute to overall risk of stillbirth.

What will the researchers do?

This project will look at the existing good-quality research that has been done in these areas from different viewpoints (i.e. medicine, midwifery, sociology and economics) investigating why this inequality persists, and what is to be done about it. In this way, the project will bring together what is known from individual pieces of the research jigsaw so that the overall picture can be used to identify the best ways of overcoming the issues.

The four specific aims of the project are to:

  • Review existing research investigating inequalities and stillbirth from all relevant perspectives
  • Provide new knowledge about the how social, individual and biological factors overlap
  • Explore the impact of existing interventions on social inequalities
  • Provide a summary of the review to all relevant groups and organisations working to reduce preventable stillbirth.

What we expect from the study

  • A high-quality scientific report that shows how the different risk factors that can happen because of social inequality combine to affect women’s risk of stillbirth
  • A summary of the results and a commentary on the ways of reducing the risk that will be helpful to regional maternity and public health teams