Page last updated at 11:22 GMT, Wednesday, 18 May 2011 12:22 UK

MP calls for more research into stillbirths

The government has been urged to improve care and support for families who suffer a stillbirth.

Opening a Westminster Hall debate on 18 May 2011, Conservative MP Christopher Heaton-Harris said there was a failure to reduce the numbers of stillborn babies in the UK.

He said 11 babies were stillborn every day with rates in the UK higher than in almost every other high-income country, a series of reports suggest.

The UK had about 4,100 stillbirths in 2009 and, with a rate of 3.5 per 1,000 births, was ranked 33rd in a list of 193 countries - down from 26th in 1995.

The research, in The Lancet, also points to wide regional variations - stillbirths were a third more likely in the East Midlands than the South West.

Health Minister Simon Burns said that stillbirth was a priority area for the "NHS outcomes framework" for 2011-12, and re-iterated the need for "immediate and ongoing" support for families affected by a stillbirth.

He urged health professionals to investigate every unexpected death of a baby.

An estimated 29% are caused by problems with the placenta, which can affect the growth of the foetus. Some 12% are linked with infections, 9% with umbilical cord problems and 6% with congenital abnormalities.

However 30% of stillbirths have no obvious cause.

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