LONDON, March 4 /PRNewswire/ --

- 17 Babies are Stillborn or Die Shortly After Birth Every Day in the UK

- With Photo

Every hour and half in the UK a baby is stillborn or dies shortly after birth. That's 17 babies every day. There are strong indications that significant numbers of these 17 deaths could be avoided and babies' lives saved.

A report, Saving Babies' Lives Report 2009, published today (4 March) by Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity, backed up by new research, highlights several problem areas that are contributing to this level of baby loss, the long-lasting impact of these deaths, and recommends changes that could save babies' lives.

The facts today: - 17 babies die every day in the UK (10 are stillbirths, 7 are neonatal deaths) totalling almost 6,500 baby deaths a year - the equivalent of 16 jumbo jets crashing every year. - This is four times the number of people who die every year of MRSA (1,593 MRSA deaths in 2007, UK Statistics Authority). - This is double the number of adults who lose their lives on Britain's roads every year (2007 - 2,940 people were killed on the roads, Department of Transport). - Ten times more babies are stillborn than die of cot death every year in the UK. - The stillbirth rate has remained almost unchanged for the past 10 years. (CEMACH)

A: Problems contributing to baby deaths: Under-resourced maternity and neonatal services: - Maternity services in the UK are under considerable strain from lack of resources and funding and there is strong evidence to suggest that this is contributing to baby deaths. (The last official enquiry by CESDI, Confidential Enquiry into Stillbirths and Deaths in Infancy, found that nearly half of all unexplained stillbirths, might have been avoided with better antenatal care.) - New evidence from a Sands survey of 270 bereaved parents found that almost half of parents (48%) did not feel that everything possible was done to save their baby's life, they felt rushed through their antenatal appointments (36%) and not completely confident about the way in which they were cared for in the lead up to their baby's death (49%). - There is a severe shortage of neonatal nurses, with 1,700 posts needing to be filled and only 14 out of 50 intensive care units in the UK providing minimum standards of one-to-one care for sick and premature babies. Serious shortage of funding for research to understand and prevent stillbirths: - Half of all stillborn babies die for no apparent reason - like a 'cot death in the womb'. The cause of these deaths is very poorly understood because research work is not being funded. - There is potential to detect the babies that are at risk of stillbirth, and deliver them early. But if work like this is to succeed we need funding for further research and trials of interventions. - There are pockets of excellent research work but much higher levels of funding are needed to enable researchers to do the work they believe could have a real impact on reducing deaths. Lack of understanding and awareness among both prospective parents and healthcare professionals of the extent and risk of stillbirth and neonatal death: - Sands' new consumer survey of UK adults revealed that awareness of the level of stillbirth is low, with 75% being very surprised that the rate of stillbirth was as high as 300 babies dying every month. - The survey also revealed that mums-to-be are not being made aware of the risks of stillbirth with 42% of mothers questioned not receiving any information on stillbirth from their midwife. Failure of current antenatal screening techniques to identify 'at-risk' babies; - 50% of all stillbirths are of babies who die for apparently no reason, the majority in 'low-risk' pregnancies.

B: Impact of baby deaths - Sands Parents' survey shows the: - Emotional impact on parents - 81% suffered depression and reduced confidence as a result of their loss, a third said the loss of their baby had affected their marriage/relationship. - Financial impact on parents - 48% said the death of their baby resulted in them or their partner being less effective at work, which had a negative impact on their career; with a quarter losing earnings as they had to change their job/career. - Cost to health and social services - 35% of parents needed extra support from health care services to help with the emotional impact of their baby's loss; a third having to take extended sick leave.

C: Sands' recommendations for change: (as outlined in Sands' Saving Babies' Lives Report 2009, being presented to Parliament today, 4 March) - Increased awareness of how many stillbirths and neonatal deaths there are in the UK. - Recognition at the highest levels that these baby deaths are a national problem. - Collaboration with other interested parties to create a national strategy to reduce the number of stillbirths and neonatal deaths in the UK and to specifically look at the following: - Properly valuing each and every baby's life. - Changing antenatal care by developing a culture of continual risk assessment within maternity service provision in order to identify higher risk pregnancies. - Recruiting and training more midwives to ensure the highest levels of care. - Better overall resourcing of maternity services to provide a truly 24 hour, 7 days a week level of service and care. - More funding for research. Sands believes that GBP6 million over the next 5 years could significantly reduce the number of babies dying.

Neal Long, Chief Executive, Sands: For too long these deaths have been ignored and yet here is compelling evidence to suggest that many babies' lives could be saved with better antenatal care, increased funding for maternity services, more midwives and increased funding for research. We want to see action now to save babies' lives.

The devastation my family and I felt when our daughter Grace was stillborn was indescribable, says actor and playwright, David Haig, a Patron of Sands No parent whose baby has died wants any other parent to suffer in this way, which is why I, as Grace's Dad am urging politicians and key decision makers to sit up, and take note of all the thousands of parents devastated by their babies' deaths. We need a co-ordinated, national strategy to tackle stillbirths and neonatal deaths and we need it now.

Further findings from Sands Parents and national consumer surveys are highlighted in notes to editors.

The Saving Babies' Lives Report 2009 has been developed to support Sands' Why17? campaign (launched in June 2008) to increase awareness of baby deaths and raise funds for research to answer the question 'Why do 17 babies die every single day in the UK?'

To find out more about Sands Why17? campaign and the Saving Babies' Lives Report 2009 please go to

Notes to Editors:

Sands has a number of parents throughout the UK who are willing to share with the media their own personal experiences of the loss of their baby.

Sands also has contact with health professionals and experts who can explain their ground-breaking work in stillbirth prevention.


During December 2008 and January 2009 Sands surveyed 270 parents who had lost a baby, asking them key questions about their experience of antenatal and neonatal care, the impact their babies deaths had had on their mental and physical health, relationships, careers and incomes. The parent survey was designed by Sands as a number of multiple-choice questions with some open-ended answers. It was carried out by research agency Purdie Pascoe and tabulated/collated by Medefield.

When asked what satisfaction levels with their antenatal care were (prior to problems developing with the pregnancy) the results parents gave were generally poor: - 41% of parents totally disagreed that they were totally satisfied with their antenatal care during and up to the time when things started to go wrong. - 49% of parents (211) did not feel completely confident about the way in which they were cared for in the lead up to their baby's death. - 48% of parents did not feel that everything possible was done to save their baby's life. - There was a general perception that midwives were under resourced and as a result rushed: - 44% totally disagreed that the midwife was always familiar with their notes and all issues related to their pregnancy. - 36% felt rushed through their antenatal appointments. - 40% totally disagreed that if they had any concerns outside their antenatal appointments they could always get support and information they wanted. Parents were also largely dissatisfied with their antenatal care even when risks were identified with their pregnancy, further confirming evidence that suboptimal care can be a factor in a significant proportion of baby deaths: - Over a third of parents, 39% were not satisfied with the way their pregnancy was managed once a risk to their baby had been identified because: - 43% didn't feel risk to the baby taken seriously enough; - 41% didn't feel confident in the care they received; - 27% couldn't get hold of a senior member of staff when they wanted one; - 27% felt they waited too long to see an obstetrician. The impact on parents and their families is devastating: - 81% of parents suffered depression and reduced confidence as a result of their loss. - 35% of parents needed extra support from health care services to help with the emotional impact of their baby's loss. - 33% said it had an adverse affect on their marriages/relationships. - 80% said it had an emotional impact on their wider family. - There is also a significant financial impact on many bereaved parents, which is often overlooked. Our survey also revealed that: - 37% of parents said the loss of their baby resulted in a loss of earnings through having to take extended sick leave. - 48% said the death resulted in them or their partner being less effective at work, which had a negative impact on their career. - 25% lost earnings because they had to change their job/career.


This was a nationally representative survey of members of the public carried out by Taylor Nelson Sofres on behalf of Sands. The survey was carried out during the week of 9 to 13 January 2009. 985 adults from across the UK were interviewed face to face.

- 1/4 of the sample thought the risks of a stillbirth happening were rare, between a 1 in 1000 and 1 in 2500 chance, whereas in reality there is a 1 in 200 chance of a stillbirth. - 1/4 of the sample also thought that the chance of a baby dying shortly after birth was rare, between a 1 in 1000 and 1 in 2500 chance, in reality there is a 1 in 300 chance of a baby dying shortly after birth - We also asked how many babies respondents thought were stillborn every month in the UK with almost half the sample giving a figure of under 100 babies a month, whereas 300 babies a month are stillborn. - When given the figure of 300 babies being stillborn every month in the UK, almost three quarters of the sample (73%) were very surprised at this level of baby loss, expecting it to be lower. - We also asked respondents what their greatest worries were when those questioned had their last baby (348 respondents) and stillbirth was the thing they worried least about, with only 6% citing this as a worry, when in fact 1 in 200 babies are stillborn, in comparison to a 1 in 1000 chance of Down's Syndrome, or a 1 in 2,300 chance of cot death. - There appears to be a general lack of awareness of the scale of baby deaths in the UK and this would appear to be compounded by a lack of information on stillbirth provided to mums to-be. 42% of those who had previously had a baby didn't receive any information from their midwife and 46% not receiving any information from their doctor. - We also asked those in the sample who had had a baby (348 respondents) when during their last pregnancy they began to worry less about losing their baby, by 20 weeks almost half the sample or 48% worried less about baby loss. There is an assumption that past 20 weeks you are largely `home and dry, but in reality a third of stillbirths happen between 37 and 41 weeks gestation. Therefore awareness of stillbirth and the potential risks needs to be present throughout a woman's pregnancy and antenatal care process. - When asked what changes they would like to see within the health service which may reduce the number of stillbirths, respondents gave the following results: - 50% wanted better ways to identify which pregnancies are at greater risk of stillbirth. - 44% of respondents wanted to see continuity of midwifery care during pregnancy. - 41% of those surveyed wanted greater funding for medical research into its causes and prevention. - 37% of respondents wanted better resourcing of antenatal services to reduce stillbirth rates.

Key Information about Sands:

Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity, was established by bereaved parents in 1978 and obtained charity status in 1981.

Sands core aims are to: - Support anyone affected by the death of a baby; - To work in partnership with health professionals to improve the quality of care and services offered to bereaved families; and - To promote research and changes in practice that could help to reduce the loss of babies' lives Helpline: +44(0)20-7436-5881 Office: +44(0)20-7436-7940 Web: E mail:

A picture accompanying this release is available through the PA Photowire. It can be downloaded from or viewed at or

If you would like further information on this, a pdf copy of the Saving Babies' Lives Report,2009 or any other aspect of Why 17? please contact: Katie Duff, Sands Communications Manager, Tel: +44(0)845-6520-442 / +44(0)7748-645-223, Email:; Lyn Peters, Sands press office, Tel: +44(0)1394-385865 / +44(0)7909-544496, email:; Erica Stewart, Sands Head Office, Tel: +44(0)20-7436-7940, Email: