About Baby Loss
What is Stillbirth?
A baby born showing no signs of life at or after 24 weeks gestation. 5,600 babies are stillborn or die shortly after birth (neonatal deaths) every year in the UK, that’s 15 every day, over 100 every week. The UK has one of the worst stillbirth rates in the developed world. There are currently just under 700,000 live births and 3,100 stillbirths per year in the UK which means around 1 in every 200 pregnancies result in stillbirth, around 9 every day.
Some causes of stillbirth include congenital malformations, maternal medical problems and birth complications and infections. However, up to a third of cases cannot be explained.
While there is no doubt that discussions around stillbirth are difficult, it’s also important to be aware that things can sometimes go wrong in any pregnancy. Pregnancy and childbirth are natural processes and most pregnancies are trouble-free. But sometimes mums and babies can become ill in the later months of pregnancy. While not all stillbirths are preventable, some are. Ways to help have a safer pregnancy include achieving a healthy weight before trying for a baby, giving up smoking, cutting out alcohol and no longer taking recreational drugs. Attend all your antenatal appointments and don’t hesitate to contact your maternity team if you have any questions or concerns.
Remember to monitor your babies movements and report ANY change in pattern to your maternity ward straight away. It’s important to tell your midwife if there is any history of diabetes in the family as you could develop gestational diabetes. Ask for a Glucose Tolerance Test to be carried out as soon as possible for if you have developed the condition, you will need to record your blood sugar levels every day and adopt a special diet.
Report any signs of infection to your midwife straight away. You may have an infection if you experience pain whilst passing urine, pain in your abdomen or loin, blood in your urine, or a high temperature. Vomiting or diarrhoea can also be signs of an infection.
Please visit our Call The Midwife page to learn about other symptoms to look out for which should be reported to your midwife straight away.
What is Miscarriage?
A large number of miscarriages can be dealt with at home and are therefore not recorded but it is thought to be that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in early miscarriage (up to 14 weeks) and 1 in 100 pregnancies end in late miscarriage (14 to 24 weeks). Women who have taken more than a year to conceive are twice as likely to miscarry than those who conceive within three months. Sadly, it is also quite common for couples to go on to have more miscarriages as 1 in 100 couples experience recurrent miscarriage (3 or more in a row). However, women experiencing recurrent miscarriages, are still likely to go on to have a successful pregnancy in the future.
Spotting, bleeding or abdominal pain can indicate a threatened miscarriage. Leaking of amniotic fluid is also a symptom of late miscarriage (after 14 weeks). Even though these signs can indicate that a miscarriage may be imminent, many women still go on to have a healthy pregnancy so it’s important to consult your doctor or midwife for advice. Many women also experience what is called a “delayed miscarriage”. This is where the baby has died or not developed properly in the womb but no symptoms have been felt. This can be very distressing as parents will only discover the problem at the 12 or 20 week scan.
Many miscarriages are unexplained as further research is needed to fully understand why they occur. Over half are caused by genetic faults. Some rarer causes of miscarriage include:
- Changes in hormone levels
- Blood clotting
- Infection such as toxoplasmosis, chlamydia and listeria
- Diabetes or liver disease
- Weak cervix, irregular shaped uterus or fibroid growths in the uterus
- Developmental problems in the baby such as spina bifida or heart defects
- Workplace conditions such as being exposed to toxic chemicals, radiation, lead or solvents
Mums have the choice of waiting for the miscarriage to start or finish naturally at home, or to have a minor operation called an ERPC (Evacuation of Retained Products of Conception) previously called a DNC to remove any remaining pregnancy tissue. Mums may also be offered tablets to help start or complete the miscarriage. A late miscarriage (14 – 24 weeks) will most likely be dealt with in hospital as an ERPC cannot be offered after this stage. In these cases, labour will be induced.
Miscarriage can effect anyone regardless of your age, medical background or previous fertility history. Ways to help have a safer pregnancy include achieving a healthy weight before trying for a baby, giving up smoking, and no longer take recreational drugs.
Report any symptoms or signs of infection to your midwife straight away. You may have an infection if you experience pain whilst passing urine, pain in your abdomen or loin, blood in your urine, or a high temperature.
Vomiting or diarrhoea can also be signs of an infection.
Ask your doctor about being prescribed junior aspirin to help prevent blood clots.
Don’t take Ibuprofen whilst pregnant.
Over 60,000 babies are born prematurely every year in the UK. Approximately half of all multiple pregnancies are born prematurely. Around 8% of babies (1 in 13) are born before 37 weeks gestation, 6% occur between 22 and 27 weeks, and just under 1% occur before 22 weeks.
Putting Baby loss into perspective
Cot death occurs in 0.40 per 1000 which is approximately 300 a year. Down Syndrome affects 1 in every 1000 babies born which is approximately 700 per year.