Check-ups could prevent stillbirths

Tags: Pregnancy

Doctors have been urged to check pregnant women for restricted growth in unborn children after experts claimed it to be the largest risk factor for stillbirth.

Researchers from the NHS West Midlands Perinatal Institute in Birmingham suggested that early diagnosis of foetal growth problems could prevent 600 stillbirths in the UK each year.

Britain has one of the highest stillbirth rates in the developed world, with rates remaining largely unchanged over the last two decades.

Medical experts found that most stillborn babies failed to reach the foetal growth potential and said earlier detection holds the key to lowering the UK's abnormally high stillbirth rate.

Scientists identified a total of 92,218 normally formed single babies born between 2009 and 2011, which included 389 stillbirths that occurred 24 weeks after conception.

They then cross-referenced those with the mother's age, the number of times she had given birth; body mass index (BMI), mental health history, pre-existing diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease, smoking in pregnancy, alcohol consumption and foetal growth problems.

The study, which is published in the online British Medical Journal (BMJ), found that women with a BMI of 30 or above, smoking in pregnancy and foetal growth restriction accounted for 56% on the entire stillbirth rate.

However, the single biggest contributor to stillbirth rates in the UK was foetal growth restriction, which increased the chance of stillbirth by more than four times when compared with normal pregnancies.

Copyright Press Association 2013

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