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Lawyer Backs Calls For Changes To Tackle Stillbirth Rates

Assembly Finds Welsh Stillbirth Rates As ‘Unacceptably High’


A leading medical lawyer at Irwin Mitchell has backed calls for a series of small changes in care to tackle the high number of stillborn babies in Wales and the rest of the UK.

Assembly members held a one-day inquiry into stillbirths - the most common cause of child death in Wales - which heard from doctors, midwives, bereaved parents and campaigners.

The inquiry found 60 babies' lives a year could be saved if procedures were tightened and recommended increased training for professionals in talking to grieving parents about consenting to post-mortem examinations to establish the cause of death.

Stillbirth is when a baby dies after 24 weeks of pregnancy but before birth. The cause of death is unknown in almost half of cases. The stillbirth rate in Wales has been between 4.2 and 5 per 1,000 births since the early 1990s, a figure the assembly found was ‘unacceptably high’.

The report recommended that:
• New parents should be given more information about stillbirths
• There needs to be greater consistency in how babies are screened in the womb - some countries offer more ultrasound scans, while there are disagreements about whether a tape measure is the best way to check foetal growth
• Parents should  be taught to recognise reduced foetal movement as a warning sign of a risk of stillbirth
• More government funding is needed for research into stillbirths

Sara Burns, a Partner at Irwin Mitchell who specialises in stillbirth claims, said: “In our experience stillbirth is something that is avoidable but still occurs as a result of a mother’s concerns being ignored or inadequate investigations being carried out. 

“We regularly see a difference in the way that hospitals treat mother’s with complications such as high blood pressure and there can be failures in looking after mothers with maternal diabetes - both of which are causes of stillbirth. 

“Bereaved parents are usually desperate for an explanation about why their child has died and this is often the reason they turn to us at Irwin Mitchell.  I have no doubt that bereaved parents would welcome the opportunity of someone having an honest and open discussion with them to include having a post mortem carried out if they felt this would make a difference and potentially avoid a similar tragedy happening to another family.” 

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise relating to Pregnancy Claims