Rise in stillbirth inequality in England & Wales

Published on: 23/01/2023

New data released by the Office for National Statistics shows that in 2021 the rate of stillbirth in the most deprived areas of England is double that of the stillbirth rate in the least deprived.

Babies of Black ethnicity continue to be more likely to be stillborn than White babies and this gap increased between 2020 and 2021.

The report confirms that the overall rate of stillbirth increased in England and Wales in 2021, following a long period where it declined every year. The Government is not on course to meet its ambitions to reduce rates of stillbirth by 50% by 2025 (compared to 2010 levels) or meet its ambitions for reducing rates of pre-term birth.

In 2021, the average age of mothers who gave birth in England and Wales increased to 30.9 years, while the average age of fathers remained at 33.7 years.

The highest stillbirth rate in 2021 remained in women aged 40 years and over at 5.9 stillbirths per 1,000 births, followed by women aged under 20 years at 5.0 stillbirths per 1,000 births.

Babies from the Black ethnic group continued to have the highest stillbirth rate at 6.9 stillbirths per 1,000 births in 2021.

The overall percentage of preterm live births increased slightly from 7.4% in 2020 to 7.6% in 2021 but was lower than the 7.8% seen in 2019; babies from the Black ethnic group continued to be more likely than other groups to be preterm births.

This is the first year that births registered outside of a marriage or civil partnership have outnumbered births registered within a marriage or civil partnership; there were 624,828 live births in 2021, of which 320,713 (51.3%) were registered to women outside of a marriage or civil partnership.

The stillbirth rate in the 10% most deprived areas in England was 5.6 stillbirths per 1,000 births in 2021; in contrast, the stillbirth rate was lower in the 10% least deprived areas in England at 2.7 stillbirths per 1,000 births.

Heidi Eldridge, CEO of MAMA Academy said: “These sad statistics highlight the fact that the government’s ambition of a 50% reduction in stillbirths by 2025 will not be met unless urgent action is taken by the government and NHS England. Inequality is an unacceptable reason for a baby to die and saving babies lives must be made a priority immediately and put back to the governments agenda. As a safer pregnancy charity, MAMA Academy remains more committed than ever to provide our life saving resources to every NHS Trust to help save more babies lives.

We are calling on the government to invest and rectify the current midwifery shortage and for all NHS Trusts to implement the actions stated in the Ockenden report to improve maternity services for all expectant parents and their babies.

Our thoughts are with all the families and their friends who had to say goodbye to their precious baby.”