New data: stillbirth rate shows ‘record low’ in UK

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Stillbirths in the UK showed a “record low” in 2020, according to new data released on Thursday.

 The country’s overall rate of stillbirth was 3.8 per 1000 births in 2020, compared to 5.1 in 2010. The rate continued to decline during the last decade with an exception in 2011 when it increased slightly than the previous year.

The new data regarding a decrease in the stillbirth rate came even though an American study indicated higher number of stillbirths during the Covid-19 pandemic. The study results published in American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (AJOG) found that pregnant women who test positive for COVID-19 at the time of birth may be at higher risk of experiencing a stillbirth or pre-term birth.

The guidance from National Health Services (NHS)  also highlights that pregnant women are at higher risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19 and their babies could be at risk if the mothers get infected late in their pregnancy.

In 2020, women aged 40 years and over had the highest stillbirth rates, 5.5 per 1,000 births. Higher rate (4.5 per 1,000 births) was also seen in mothers aged 20 to 24 years. The rate for mothers aged 30 to 34 years was 3.6 per 1,000 births.

“Women in this age group [30 to 34 years] represent the largest proportion of live births. Consequently, a continued stagnation in stillbirth rates in this age group may slow decreases in the overall stillbirth rate for England and Wales”, ONS said.

The stillbirth rate among Black people was 7.1 per 1000 births in 2019. It decreased to 6.3 this year. However, they still represent the highest rate than other communities in the UK whereas this rate among the white people is just 3.2 per 1000 births.

The Black people was the only ethnic group who has seen an increase in the percentage of preterm births between 2019 and 2020, (8.5 % to 8.8% respectively), ONS said.

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