UK stillbirth rates highest in western world

14/04/11

Woman with head in her hands

The UK has one of the highest rates of stillbirths in the western world, according to new figures.

It's happening to 11 families, on average, every day.

Newsbeat has spoken Sam Withers, who was 25 when she suffered a stillbirth at 37 weeks, two years ago.

She lives in Kent and has two healthy children.

So tell us what happened to you...

"I thought I was getting mild contraction pains on my right side. I just thought it was contractions because I'd had two babies before but it just stayed there. I felt a little bit dizzy and sick.

"So I told my partner and he said 'Maybe we should ring the hospital'. So we did and they advised us to come in because of all my symptoms. They advised me to use a wheelchair when I got there. I waited there for about three hours before I was seen. They did keep coming and seeing me saying I didn't look well, but I was being sick and was just dizzy.

"By the time they did see me and did a scan to see the baby they said they couldn't find the heartbeat. Then I had a massive blood loss and they said that my placenta had abrupted and that's what had caused my still birth. Then I had to go and give birth.

That's obviously a tremendously harrowing thing to go through...

"It's not a nice thing. You've got everything ready by 37 weeks because you know your baby's coming.

"How had the pregnancy been up until then and were you following all the dietary advice?

"I didn't drink, I didn't smoke. I had loads of scans because the baby was measuring up small and they changed my due date. At about 22 weeks they found the blood flow to the placenta on one side was slower. In the last weeks I had high blood pressure, which they kept checking but no one admitted me to hospital. I also had a urine infection. As far as I was concerned I was eating healthily."

The UK has one of the highest rates of stillbirth in the western world, does that surprise you?

"If you had asked me two years ago it would've surprised me but now I'm probably not so surprised with my experience.

"I just think the hospital's need more staff. It's probably hard for them but they do need more staff to help more people."

Would you have any advice for anyone that's worried about this?

"I'd get a second opinion and I wish I had now. If you're not happy with what your midwife says, or your doctor go and get a second opinion.

"At the end of the day you're carrying a life in your stomach. I didn't want to worry anyone because a lot of people have a lot of problems, but anything you are worried about, get a second opinion because it might help."

How's the family dealt with this happening?

"My children know about it because I had a big belly and they felt the baby move. My little boy says: 'I would've been a big brother'. We go and visit the grave and put flowers down.

"My husband, he can't hold a newborn baby now because of how it's affected him, because obviously he saw the birth."