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Stillbirth and Covid

cuddling a newborn

“At St George’s, a teaching hospital in south London, stillbirths rose from 2.38 per 1,000 births pre-pandemic, to 9.31 per 1,000 births between Feb 1 and June 14.”
The Times, September 30th

This is a truly heartbreaking statistic. According to SANDS: Every day in the UK 14 babies die before, during or shortly after birth – and I remember reading about concerns that the stillbirth rate would increase during lockdown.

There will be more to learn about why stillbirths increased during this time but, during lockdown, maternity units were more restricted and guidance changed weekly. There was concern among pregnant women about catching Covid, about going into hospital on their own and about having less routine contact with their midwife.

In different parenting forums and on social media, expectant mums were discussing whether to miss appointments and scans because they were scared. This pandemic has caused a great deal of additional stress and anxiety and expectant women and their families.

And, for some women, they were unable to get to appointments or to the hospital in lockdown due to lack of a car, lack of finances and fear about taking public transport.

Covid isn’t going anywhere soon, many parts of the country are under restrictions and further lockdowns could be possible – but this cannot continue to impact maternity services. Things are changing in many maternity units now and women are less likely to be on their own but this needs to be more consistent and the fear and isolation around antenatal appointments and birth can’t return.

If you are pregnant:

  • join the Maternity Voices Facebook Group for your maternity unit – this is a place for you to ask questions and to find out the latest in guidance.
  • please don’t miss any antenatal appointments and scans
  • seek additional support if you think something might be wrong, if you are worried, if you need some reassurance.
  • please don’t feel that you are wasting anyone’s time or that you are making a fuss or that you are being silly
  • if you are unsure what is happening with your appointments please keep asking questions so you get the information you need

Janine Smith, a specialist in pregnancy, birth and early parenting