STILLBIRTHS doubled during the first wave of the coronavirus as “women delayed getting help”, doctors have claimed.
The Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) has launched a national review into the increased rate of stillbirths in England between April and June this year.
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The Health Service Journal (HSJ) stated that there were 40 intrapartum stillbirths during April and June in comparison to 24 the year before during the same time period.
The review will investigate stillbirths in all settings in England across the three month period.
Estimates from the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (RCOG) suggests that 86 per cent of maternity units reported a reduction in emergency antenatal presentations in April.
This, the group claims “suggests women may have delayed seeking care”.
Stillbirths are still being investigated and the HSIB said that this will not focus on one trust or area in particular.
Speaking to the HSJ, the associate director of maternity investigation at HSIB, Sandy Lewis, said that during the first wave, there had been twice the number of stillbirths compared to the same time last year.
What is intrapartum stillbirth?
Intrapartum stillbirth is the term used to refer to when a baby dies after labour begins
It is different from a Antepartum stillbirth, which is when the baby dies in the womb before labour begins.
It is not clear what causes stillbirth, but common causes could be an infection, pregnancy complications or birth defects.
The NHS states that while not all stillbirths can be prevented, there are some measures that you can take to help.
This includes stopping smoking and avoiding alcohol and drugs.
“All those investigations are in progress and are being completed. We need to look at them in their entirety to understand some of the themes”, she said.
Between April 1 and September 30 this year, HSIB investigated 73 intrapartum stillbirths and 101 through 2019 to 2020.
Regardless of location, the group investigates all intrapartum stillbirths under NHS care.
A further study from the RCOG found that 81 obstetric units claimed that during April this year, 70 per cent of units had reduced antenatal appointments.
It also states that 56 per cent of units saw a reduction in postnatal appointments, while 60 per cent of units removed the option of at home births or in midwife-led units.
Experts say the review has been launched due to an increase in numbers and HSIB’s clinical director Louise Page stated that one of the biggest concerns in the healthcare system is if the changes to the system in March changed “health seeking behaviours”.
She added that experts were now looking at if women were accessing health care in different ways during the first wave.
She said that the impact of lockdown was also being considered as well as “the uncertainty over whether pregnant women were going to be more at risk in the same way that we know that they were in the H1N1 flu.”
Decisions into care provisions made by maternity services during the first wave are also set to be investigated.
Pregnant women, over 60s & obese must avoid contact with others, says Covid guide
Dr Page said that there was “no evidence” to suggest that pregnant women had worse Covid symptoms than non-pregnant women.
Her comments come after new government guidance revealed that everyone over the age of 60, pregnant women and obese people must avoid contact with others.
The new lockdown advice warns that those that fall into these categories are classed as “clinically vulnerable” and at higher risk of coronavirus.
At present there is no data that shows stillbirth death published by health care boards and the RCOG said it is keen for the Office for National Statistics to release this information.