Shocking Stillbirths

April 14, 2011 by tonyleather  
Published in Women

It seems ludicrous that modern medicine can still not account for at least half of all the tragic instances of stillbirth that happen every day. In spite of better care during pregnancy, things still go wrong, al too often, and doctors just do not know why.

I have to admit that medical statistics often fail to impress me much, but recent items on ther news included the shocking revelation that just over one in 200 modern pregnancies ends with  stillbirth, a figure unchanged, and thus obviously not improved upon since the early 1990s. CEMACH, or Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health found that during 2005, there were 3,600 stillbirths in the UK.

I can truly imagine the horror that any prospective parent must experience at the moment of discovery, for I remember all too clearly how desperate and terrified I was, upon the birth of my son, to see that his little grey body was inert, and not drawing breath.

Those eternal, heart-stopping moments during which his future hung in the balance will be forever branded in my memory, but he lived, thankfully, and I was spared the devastation of losing him before ever getting to see his smile. The utter desolation of that experience must be heart-rending in the extreme.

Stillbirths, commonest among those below twenty or over 40, as well as in ethnic minority groups, are the deaths of unborn babies, in the womb, after the 24th week of the pregnancy, and the current trend for waiting longer before starting a family could quite possibly lead to an upsurge in the frequency of their occurring.

The studies, centered on England, Northern Ireland and Wales clearly indicate that the incidence of stillbirths declined steadily from 1950 onwards, but that, since 1990s, figures have leveled off, though it appears that black and Asian women seem almost twice as likely to experience this horror compared to white women.

There can be many reasons for this to happen, though in over half of recorded cases, doctors do not know what caused them, one theory being that they could often be linked with babies failing to develop, as in the brain, or some other organ failing to mature properly, or asphyxiation during birth, or internal bleeding by the mother.

Deprivation and lack of proper nutrition are major contributory factors, mothers from very poor areas twice as likely to produce stillborn babies or infants that who die within the first month. The tragedy of still births, unlike that of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, commonly called SIDS or cot deaths, is that the mothers concerned NEVER get to learn anything about the baby they should have been caring for, an aching void almost impossible to fill.

The CEMACH study made it painfully clear that this is still, for far too many unfortunate would-be mothers, a major and tragic problem, far too little understood by medical professionals. There need to be much more vigorous research into the reasons for these tragic deaths to occur, and while one could argue that natural selection is at work here, medicine surely can still make a difference?

There are those who will point to the steadiness of the figures generated by this ongoing research, pointing out that an attrition rate of one half of one per cent of all births has to be quite acceptable, but many, including me, would have to disagree.

If the child has been conceived, then unless tests show it to be so badly deformed as to be unviable, then it deserves every opportunity to live life to the full. Stillbirth is shocking, and with modern medical technology, should be a thing of the past, so why does it still happen?

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4 Responses to “Shocking Stillbirths”
  1. Thespeakman Says:

    I was listening the news today Tony and it was claimed that alcohol reduction and a better diet would cut the figure by two thirds

  2. mona rastogi Says:

    very good

  3. Ruby Hawk Says:

    It’s tragic for a family to lose a child this way. We have so many advances in science, you’d think something could be done.

  4. Lynn Hollis Says:

    You would think with all our resources and technology these days, the figure would be a little lower for this problem.


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