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Articles 1st Dec 2015

Poor maternity care and stillbirth: Have you been affected?

Sadly one in every 200 pregnancies in the UK ends in stillbirth. A recent study by Imperial College London, has established that babies delivered at the weekend are more likely to die or suffer serious injury, rather than those born during week days. The single day with the highest risk of death was also found to be Thursday. The study was an analysis of 1.3 million births in hospitals in England between April 2010 to March 2012. The research findings have now been published in the British Medical Journal.

It was found that 7.1 in every 1000 births result in death, and that infants born on a weekend were found to be 7% more likely to be stillborn or die in their first week of life. It has been suggested that if the standards applied on the safest day to give birth (Tuesday) applied all week, then 1 in 6 deaths could be avoided.

It was also found that 6% of mothers were more likely to suffer infections and 6% of babies were more likely to suffer an injury during birth on a weekend in comparison with those delivered during the week. Injuries suffered by babies during birth can be catastrophic for the child and their family.

A recent report from MBRRACE-UK (Mothers and Babies: Reducing Risk through Audits and Confidential Enquiries across the UK) confirms that there are often missed opportunities to save lives. In the MBRRACE-UK study, in 60% of the 133 cases reviewed different care could have prevented a baby’s death. Various issues with care were identified including lack of investigation of slowed or stopped foetal movements, misinterpretation of foetal heartbeats, failure to adequately monitor growth of the baby, and failure to monitor expectant mothers more closely. All of these issues with care could result in missed opportunities to prevent stillbirths.

Dr William Palmer, the leader of the Imperial College study has suggested that a reason for this rise in poor care at weekends could be due to under staffing, although staffing levels were not monitored as part of the study. Many feel that pre and post natal care can be improved and that to see a small team of midwives throughout their pregnancy, birth and postnatal period would be beneficial for both mother and baby. It is also concerning to note that the growing dispute between junior doctors and the NHS could result in strike action in the near future, putting those needing treatment at further risk.

Our specialist Clinical Negligence team has years of experience in dealing with the effects of poor maternity care, birth injuries to mother and baby, and stillbirth. If you think that you, or a loved one, may have been affected by negligent medical care during pregnancy or birth we maybe able to help you.


The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.

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