Birth Trauma Association says simple improvements in maternity care could reduce stillbirths
The Birth Trauma Association (BTA), a charity that offers support to women with postnatal PTSD, argues that basic improvements in the care of women in labour could dramatically cut the stillbirth rate.
Stillbirth and neonatal death rates have been cut by half since 1993, a report by MBRRACE-UK, published on 28 November, has found. This is very welcome news and reflects the many improvements that have been made in care over the last 24 years.
But the report also indicated that 80% of deaths could have been avoided by better care in labour. We believe that it is time to address the problems that lead to so many babies dying unnecessarily.
Contributing factors to the baby deaths included under-staffing and heavy workload. These staff shortages often led to delays in inducing a birth, with fatal consequences. In some cases, staff failed to notice that women were in active (second stage) labour. There were also mistakes in reading the electronic monitor, meaning that staff missed signs that the baby was in danger.
Finally, the report noted that when hospitals carried out reviews of stillbirths and neonatal reviews, the review was often of a poor quality, making it harder to identify causes and pinpoint areas for improvement.
The BTA’s research officer, Maureen Treadwell, said: “Cases of stillbirth and neonatal death have a devastating emotional impact on parents. We welcome the news that rates of babies dying have halved since 1993, but the MBRRACE report shows that more could be done to cut those rates still further. The government needs to address, as a matter of urgency, the shortage of midwives and obstetricians, to make sure that women in labour are properly cared for. Too often, midwives are overworked and unable to give women the attention they need.
“We also firmly believe that training of midwives needs to be improved so that they don’t miss crucial signs that a woman is in second stage labour. It is absolutely vital that midwives know how to read an electronic trace properly – many more babies’ lives could be saved if an abnormal trace was acted on immediately.
“Finally, we believe that all trusts should have proper procedures in place for reviewing the deaths of newborn babies. We hope that the forthcoming national standardised tool to support staff will lead to improved reviews and a reduction in unnecessary deaths.”