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Medical Negligence

An update on NICE guidance on induction in pregnancy which may change stillbirth rates in the UK

Written by Tim Moulton, Associate & Head of Clinical Negligence


November 3, 2022

Written by Sinéad Connolly

Starting a family and becoming a parent is one of the happiest times in many people’s lives. But sadly, not every mother and father to be will experience the joy and relief of their baby’s first cry.

According to Tommy’s, a pregnancy loss charity, 1 in 250 pregnancies will result in a stillbirth in the UK.

A stillbirth is when a baby dies before they are born, but after 24 weeks of pregnancy. 2763 babies were stillborn in 2019 in the UK. Those numbers are stark and frightening – that is 2763 families who never got to take their baby home, and never had the joy of watching their baby grow up.

Pregnancy loss and baby loss at any stage is devastating, and the loss of a much-wanted baby can cause many mothers and fathers significant mental health problems.

What causes stillbirth?

The cause of every stillbirth is not always known, but there are risk factors which can increase the chances of stillbirth occurring including maternal smoking and a high BMI.

The most common causes of stillbirth include infection, fetal growth restrictions and problems with the placenta. In addition, one cause may be if there were failings in maternal antenatal care.

As a pregnant mother, you are continuously told by your midwife to ‘Count the Kicks.’ Reduced fetal movement can be a sign that the baby is in distress and pregnant women are advised to report reduced movement immediately. Statistics show that approximately 50% of all mothers who suffered a stillbirth noticed reduced movement.

Change to NICE Guidance

The risk of stillbirth increases after 41 weeks of pregnancy. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), initially recommended in draft guidance published in May 2021 that mothers-to-be should be offered induction at 41 weeks pregnant and the induction should take place as soon as possible to help reduce stillbirth and other complications.

However, in final guidance published November 2021, that guidance has been reduced and now maternity practitioners should ‘discuss’ with mothers and advise that induction after 41 weeks may reduce stillbirth. An offer of induction is no longer required.

It remains to be seen if the dilution of NICE advice will result in a change to stillbirth statistics.

No matter how many weeks pregnant you are, stillbirth is devastating, and it can be made even more heart-breaking if the loss could have been prevented.

Sinead Connolly is a Senior Litigation Executive within our Medical Negligence Department. If you have sadly suffered a stillbirth, we can advise you if you may have a medical negligence case. Call us on 0330 013 0251 or start your claim with our online form.