Rate of stillbirths in Asian babies higher in Yorkshire than the national average, as report warns deprivation is a key factor in baby loss

The NHS must act urgently to reduce stillbirths in non-white babies, a charity leader has warned after figures reveal the number of stillborn Asian babies in Yorkshire and the Humber is above the national average.

Thursday, 27th May 2021, 4:41 am
Some 3.9 per 1000 births nationally were stillbirths in 2019, according to the data. 242 stillbirths occurred in Yorkshire and the Humber, a slight drop from 251 in 2018.

The figures, from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that 6.2 per 1000 births of Asian babies in the region was a stillbirth in 2019, compared to the national average of 5.1 per 1000. The rate was significantly lower in white babies, with 3.6 births per 1000 ending in stillbirth.

Some 3.9 per 1000 births nationally were stillbirths in 2019, according to the data. 242 stillbirths occurred in Yorkshire and the Humber, a slight drop from 251 in 2018.

Nationally, black mothers are the most likely to experience a stillbirth, but the number of overall stillbirths has declined since 2007.

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Out of all the Asian ethnicities, the Pakistani group had the highest stillbirth rates, according to the data.

It’s the first time the ONS have broken stillbirth rates down by ethnicity.

A report statistician cited deprivation as one of the risk factors for stillbirth.

Thomas Maddox, of the ONS, said: “Babies from Asian, Black and Any Other ethnic group were more likely to live in more deprived areas compared with their white counterparts which could explain higher rates in those ethnic groups.”

Earlier this year, Leeds City Council introduced its new maternity strategy aimed at halving stillbirths among black and other minority ethnic communities by 2025.

Coun Fiona Venner said: “In Leeds although we’ve made progress, stillbirths are higher in all our non-white communities and in most deprived areas of the city.

“It follows a tragic and well-established pattern.

One contributing factor to this situation is if women have seen a midwife before 10 weeks of pregnancy and through the pregnancy. And we do know that there may be reluctance in some communities to see a midwife, or lack of knowledge about what support is available.”

The council is set to run a programme over this summer to engage more women from non-white communities with their midwives, Coun Venner said.

Clea Harmer, chief executive of Sands, the neonatal death charity, said: “We need urgent action and the government must set a target to reduce these clear inequalities in perinatal mortality.

“With reports about racism and bias in the NHS we are pleased that action to address inequalities and institutional bias has been recognised as a priority for the NHS and Department for Health and Social Care.

“Ethnicity is not the only issue here; we know that social deprivation increases the risk of baby deaths and that four in every five babies from black ethnic groups are born in areas of social deprivation.

Last summer the NHS wrote to all maternity units in the country calling on them to take four specific actions which will minimise the additional risk of COVID-19 for Black Asian and minority ethnic women and their babies - including increasing support for women, tailored communications, recording ethnicity and promoting the use of vitamins.

The NHS said this was part of a broader piece of work to promote good pregnancy outcomes in women.

Dr Tracey Cooper, Regional Chief Midwife said: “ In Yorkshire and the Humber we have ensured that the four specific actions have been implemented across all local maternity systems. We also continue to ensure that new models of care prioritise those more likely to experience poor outcomes first.

“This includes ensuring most women from Black, Asian and mixed ethnicity backgrounds and those from the most deprived areas are placed on a Continuity of Carer pathway by March 2022, as we know from the evidence that this improves outcomes for these women”.