The number of babies dying in stillbirths at least one week before they are due to rise from 0.2% to 0.4% over five years
One in four babies in the UK who had a stillbirth during pregnancy last year died before they reached a year old, new research suggests.
The researchers said the number of babies who died in so-called coma deaths could rise from 0.2% to 0.4% over five years.
So-called coma deaths in 2015-16 were 5,586, the research in the journal Clinical Medicine found. The research based on death certificates confirmed they were related to pregnancy and a stillbirth.
The researchers found that neonatal death rates among stillbirths declined in England, Wales and Northern Ireland during the last decade, but “slow” rates continued to rise in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
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A spokesman for the UK Pregnancy and Neonatal Society said: “Many of these babies had some sort of illness in the womb and could have received treatment to improve their chances of survival but this did not happen.
“They may have been in great pain or suffering trauma, perhaps bleeding from an infection, where they could not get their pain relief and life was short and it was too late.
“This is a very concerning finding and we desperately need these figures published as soon as possible by these governments.
“Improvements need to be made quickly as there is a direct link between quality of care and survival in stillbirth.
“Fewer cases of stillbirth would be welcome, but it’s also important to remember all babies are healthy at the time of their birth.”
Prof Sir Mike Richards, the chair of the UK Health and Social Care Information Centre, which carried out the study, said: “This is one of the most challenging maternal health stories because babies’ lives are repeatedly cut short in this way.
“We are all appalled by these statistics, and we can’t let the parents of these babies suffer in silence.
“We have the tools, through early prenatal diagnosis, emergency medical care and professional advice to reduce deaths from stillbirths.
“It’s time that both government and health professionals got behind those tools so that we can reduce these numbers right across the country.”
A Department of Health spokesman said: “We know there are still some problems in the care of mothers and babies who are pregnant at the end of the pregnancy and the end of their neonatal period, so we want to speed up reporting of stillbirths.
“We are investing £380m a year to support services in the UK’s maternity care system and will work with the NHS, partner organisations and others to address this.”