The latest data from the Office For National Statistics shows that 15 babies die every day in the UK either before, during or shortly after birth.
Furthermore, every day four babies die around their due date. Many of these lives could be saved with improvements both to care and to our understanding of why babies die and how to protect them.
While the number of deaths has fallen in recent years, this is no time to be complacent. The UK is moving three times slower than some other European countries to save lives. This needs to improve.
That’s why we’re running the #15babiesaday initiative, to highlight the appalling fact that 15 babies die before, during or shortly after birth in the UK every single day.
What can I do?
The facts about baby death
- 15 babies die every day in the UK either before, during or shortly after birth[i].
- On average 4 babies die around their due date every day[ii]. Many of these lives could be saved with improvements both to care and to our understanding of why babies die and how to protect them.
- Every year around 900 babies die or have a severe brain injury as a result of something that goes wrong during labour and birth around their due date[iii]. The majority of these tragedies could be avoided.
- After many years of stagnation stillbirth rates in recent years have begun to show a welcome decline, reflecting rising national awareness of baby deaths, thanks to the work of Sands and others. But the rate of decline needs to be far faster if government targets to halve deaths by 2025 are to be achieved. Meanwhile, previously falling rates of neonatal death have stalled, and - alarmingly - these deaths actually increased in 2015 and 2016 with 6 babies dying soon after birth every day[i].
- Research shows that when a baby dies before birth, near the end of pregnancy, in six out of ten cases that death might have been prevented with different care[v]. In 2015 alone, 600 opportunities to save a life were missed OR Since 2015 when the government announced its ambition to halve baby deaths, 1200 opportunities to save a life have been missed.
- Families are too often sent home with poor explanations about their baby’s death. If hospitals don’t adequately investigate what happened, how can lessons be learned? Yet research shows that there is no local review of care for three-quarters of stillbirths at the end of pregnancy[vi], and even where reviews had been carried out few follow national guidance or involve parents.
How can hospitals fulfil their legal Duty of Candour[vii] to be honest and clear about care that should have been better if they have not examined what happened?
- The safety and quality of maternity care across the UK continues to be a postcode lottery. The rate of perinatal mortality varies hugely from region to region[viii], reflecting a map of poverty and health inequality.
- One in 150 births ends in the death of a baby. With better information, women can be empowered to help minimise the risks and make the right choices for them about their pregnancy.
- One in 5 stillbirths is associated with smoking[ix]. In some parts of the UK up to one in four women smoke during pregnancy, yet some health care providers can’t afford support services for women to help them stop. The slashing of Public Health budgets is having fatal consequences.
- How can the government fulfil its plans for better and safer maternity care without the capacity to deliver it? Ever-increasing pressure on the maternity workforce is threatening safety: England alone needs 3,500 more midwives[x].
[i] Office for National Statistics (2018), Child mortality in England and Wales: 2016 Birth Characteristics in England and Wales
[ii] MBRRACE-UK surveillance report on 2015 data
[v] MBRRACE-UK Confidential Enquiry into Normally-formed Antepartum Term Stillbirths, 2015
[vi] MBRRACE-UK Confidential Enquiry into Normally-formed Antepartum Term Stillbirths, 2015
[viii] MBRRACE-UK surveillance report on 2015 data
[ix] MBRRACE-UK surveillance report on 2015 data