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Stillbirth rates in the UK are among the worst in the developed world, according to new research published in medical journal The Lancet. Of the 35 countries listed, Britain came 33rd.
While stillbirth rates in the UK have remained unchanged for 10 years, countries like Australia who have invested heavily in research have managed to bring their rates down considerably.
Now the UK charity Sands, in conjunction with Grazia magazine, has launched a petition to urge further government funding into stillbirth research.
Stillbirth is the term used when a baby dies in the womb after 24 weeks of pregnancy. Although the exact cause of most cases is unknown it is thought that genetic disorders and infections have a role.
Older mothers who smoke, have diabetes, high blood pressure or are overweight are also thought to have a higher risk of stillbirth, but it can happen in young mothers.
Louise McGeechan, who is just 23, lost her baby last year and spoke to The Hour about her ordeal.
She said: “I had a healthy pregnancy and then I went 12 days overdue. I was booked in to be induced, and the day before I went to get induced I felt erratic movements and pain, to the point that I thought I was actually in labour.
“It only lasted about five minutes. Then afterwards I went to bed and when I got up the next morning I knew something wasn’t right.”
Louise went to the hospital and the doctors searched for a heartbeat, but could not find one. She is now convinced that young mothers who are considered to be “low risk” need better treatment and care during their pregnancy.
“They just leave you to it, assuming that you’ll be fine,” she said. “I didn’t get any different treatment from any other low risk pregnancy, but I think we all need to get better treatment and care.”
Ann McMurray, of the UK charity Sands, campaigns for further research in to stillbirth. She said: “We’ve got just under 500 babies a year who are stillborn or die shortly after birth.
“Hopefully we can reduce the numbers that do die and part of that strategy will be to look at ways of how people are monitored, considering that they are classed as low risk.
“It’s not about just getting scans, it’s about listening to the person and being aware of different changes that are happening in the pregnancy.”
The Hour’s resident medical expert, Dr Debbie, added: “It is likely that the UK isn't doing as well as it should in terms of stillbirth rates because of obesity, diabetes and women leaving having babies until later in life, rather than any deficiency in care.”