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Sharp rise in stillbirths due to COVID-19

Between 9 and 15 October 2020 we supported Bliss’ Baby Loss Awareness Week. Sadly, only a few weeks after Baby Loss Awareness Week, it has been reported that there was a considerable increase in rates of stillbirth between April and June 2020 compared to the same period last year. On the basis of these figures it appears that stillbirth rates have almost doubled during the peak of the pandemic compared to the previous year. The figures have prompted a review by the Health Safety Investigations Branch who expect to provide a report on their findings in 2021.

Of the 194 obstetric units in the UK, 81 were included in the survey undertaken by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. 70% of units reported a reduction in antenatal appointments and 56% in postnatal appointments. 70% reported a change to screening pathways for gestational diabetes mellitus. However, most significant to the apparent increase in stillbirths is the finding that 86% of units experienced a reduction in emergency antenatal presentations between April and June 2020.

With England heading towards a second lockdown on Thursday, it is particularly important to raise awareness of these findings in the hope that any increase in stillbirth rates will be avoided.

Many women who suffer stillbirth have no symptoms at all. However, according to charity Tommy’s there are certain signs which should not be ignored:

  • A change / reduction in foetal movements
  • Leaking fluid / vaginal discharge
  • Unusual symptoms such as headaches, blurred vision (seeing stars), any pains, any aches, nosebleeds, feeling dizzy or faint
  • Itching

Overall the advice is to trust your instincts and if you are at all concerned then to contact your midwife or your maternity unit immediately.

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