The National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit (NPEU) of the University of Oxford has published their biennial report into perinatal mortaility, i.e. stillbirths.
The report confirms that while 1 in 200 births ends in stillbirth; 1 in 3 of these occurs at ‘at term’ (37+ weeks). Given that babies have a much better chance of surviving when they reach term, this is perhaps quite a surprising statistic. More surprising however, is the finding that there were “critical gaps in care” in over half of the term stillbirths reviewed. The three main areas of failure seen were:
1) Failures to detect diabetes in pregnancy
2) Failure to monitor growth (and therefore detect poor growth) in the womb
3) Failure to investigate decreased movement in the womb.
The two latter areas of failure are ones that we regularly investigate as medical negligence practitioners. Certainly cuts to NHS funding may be a factor, but another potential reason for missed opportunities to detect poor growth and/or decreased movement could be down to the tendency of medical practitioners to assume, too easily, that all is well.
Louise Silverton, Director of the Royal College of Midwives, has been reported by the media to have said, following this report, that “Midwives are optimists... you tend to assume that babies will grow well. It is very upsetting when you think of all the babies who potentially could have been saved”.
For further help or advice in this matter, please contact a member of our Litigation team on 01234 270600.