Scottish stillbirth rates lowest in UK

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Scotland is close to the high standard set by Nordic nations in minimising stillbirths and early infant deaths, according to a report.

A Leicester University study found rates were falling across the entire UK, but Scotland was leading the way among the nations.

The rate of stillbirths and deaths of babies within 28 days in Scotland is 4.72 per 1,000 live births.

This compares with a rate of 4.3 in Nordic countries.

Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland are generally regarded as having the "gold standard" in terms of neonatal survival rates.

The 2015 rate for the whole of the UK for stillbirths and deaths of babies within 28 days of birth was 5.61 per 1,000 live births - a drop from 6.04 in 2013.

Foetal movement

In Scotland the rate has fallen from 5.43 to 4.72 - the lowest of all the UK nations.

Mary Ross-Davie, the Royal College of Midwives Scotland director, said the report was "good news" for Scotland.

She told the BBC that there had been a lot of work focusing on talking to women about smoking during pregnancy and encouraging expectant mothers to monitor foetal movements.

Schemes have also been introduced for midwives and obstetricians to consistently measure the growth of babies and follow up quickly if problems are noted.

"I think in Scotland we really began to focus on this area a little while before the other countries of the UK," she said.

"We set up a national stillbirth group in 2013. We've had the Maternity Care Quality Improvement Collaborative since that time as well and all of those national pieces of work and local pieces of work have meant that we've really been ahead of the game in terms of the rest of the UK in tackling the issue of stillbirth."

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Ms Ross-Davie said it was also important to recognise that deprivation was a "key factor" in stillbirth and neonatal death rates.

"There's lots of work that we can still do in Scotland. We have made great strides but we want to continue to reduce the number of stillbirths and neonatal deaths in Scotland," she added.

"We've really looked at Scandinavia in Scotland when we've been seeking to reduce our stillbirth rates here... The key thing there is that it's a much more equal society so there are lower levels of deprivation - and so that's something that we really need to work on in Scotland."

The report's author, Prof Elizabeth Draper, said stillbirth rates had fallen by 8% across the whole of the UK.

"It has been similar in Scotland but the starting point was somewhat lower so the actual stillbirth rate in Scotland is lower than in the rest of the UK," she said.

"Our aim is to try and reduce stillbirths significantly and for all four countries of the UK to to get down to the Nordic levels of stillbirth."

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