More research required into reducing risk of stillbirths

A strategy aimed at reducing the risk of stillbirths remains unproven, a Scottish study has found.

The stillbirth rate has marginally dropped. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

A research team led by the University of Edinburgh found the care package may offer “marginal” benefits but results were ultimately inconclusive.

Previous research had suggested that encouraging women to pay attention to their babies’ movements, combined with additional checks and early delivery of babies at risk, might help cut rates of stillbirth by 30 percent.

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The team looked at whether a similar strategy could help to reduce rates of stillbirths in a large randomised trial. The report analysed more than 400,000 pregnancies from 33 hospitals around the UK and Ireland in what is said to be the largest study of foetal movement awareness to date.

The results pointed to a marginal drop in the stillbirth rate, from 44 in 10,000 births after standard care to around 41 in 10,000 births with the intervention. Further analysis suggested that the intervention might prevent five stillbirths for every 10,000 babies born. Experts said further research is needed.

Professor Jane Norman, director of the university’s Edinburgh Tommy’s Centre, said: “The study was designed to detect an effect of 30 per cent or greater. The results suggest that if there is a beneficial effect, it is much smaller than this. It is not possible to say with certainty that the intervention has any effect on reducing rates of stillbirth.”