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Tuesday, August 3, 1999 Published at 16:03 GMT 17:03 UK


Health

Cot death rate falls

Fewer babies are dying of sudden infant death syndrome

The number of cot deaths in England, Wales and Scotland fell by over a quarter between 1997 and 1998, official figures reveal.


Joyce Epstein, Infant Deaths Foundation: Fall a surprise
There were 284 cot deaths, otherwise known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), in England and Wales in 1998 compared with 393 in 1997. This is a fall of 28%.

In Scotland, the number fell from 52 to 37.

The figures for England and Wales show that in 1998, the SIDS rate was less than one child in every 2,000 live births.

Statisticians define SID as the sudden and unexpected death of a baby up to the age of one year where no cause can be found.

Young mums most at risk


[ image:  ]
The SIDS rate was highest for children of mothers aged under 20 at the time of the child's birth.

SIDS are more common among boys than girls. Between 1994 and 1998, 60 per cent of all SIDS occurred among boys.

Most SIDS occur during winter. Between 1994-1998, there were 36 per cent more SIDS in the three month period January to March compared with the three month period July to September.

Joyce Epstein, secretary-general of the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths, said the drop in cot deaths was "wonderful news".

She said: "We have been working very hard to try to ensure the message about how to reduce the risk of cot deaths gets through to parents and the professionals working with them, and we are greatly encouraged by today's figures.

"But with six babies still dying every single week, there remains much to be done."

Cot death is still the main cause of death in babies over one month old.

In 1971, when records of SIDS first started, there were 1,600 deaths a year.

Cot deaths fell massively in 1997 after research from New Zealand found that babies were much safer sleeping on their backs.

Other studies have shown links between smoking during pregnancy and in the same room as babies, overheating and keeping the baby's head uncovered.


[ image: The number of stillbirths has also fallen]
The number of stillbirths has also fallen
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: "This is the lowest number of sudden infant deaths recorded and is extremely welcome.

"However we are determined to reduce the rates of SIDS still further.

"We will continue the campaign to advise families on ways in which these tragedies can be avoided and we will shortly be issuing a further series of our leaflet, Reduce the Risk of Cot Death."

The SIDS figures are contained in the autumn issue of Health Statistics Quarterly published by the Office for National Statistics.

The report gives statistics of live births, stillbirths and infant deaths in England and Wales, for each health authority and regional office. Some main findings include:

  • There were 635,901 live births in England and Wales in 1998, compared with 643,095 in 1997, a decrease of 1.1 per cent
  • In 1998 there were 3,417 stillbirths in England and Wales, and 1,835 perinatal deaths (deaths at ages under seven days)

  • The perinatal mortality rate was 8.2 per thousand live births and stillbirths, a decrease from 8.3 in 1997.
  • In 1998, there were also 3,605 infant deaths (deaths at under one year), with an infant mortality rate of 5.7 per thousand live births the lowest yet recorded, compared with 5.9 in 1997

Abortions decline slightly

New provisional statistics for abortions in England and Wales during the March quarter 1999 show that the rate was 14.0 abortions per thousand women aged 14-49 compared with 14.4 per thousand in the March quarter of 1998, a decrease of 2.8 per cent.

Compared to the March quarter of 1998, terminations of pregnancies for women resident in England and Wales decreased by 771 to 44,666.

The abortion rate decreased in all age-groups except the 25-29 and 45 and over - where they remained the same when compared to the March quarter of 1998.



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