Plans to halve number of stillbirths in Leeds by 2025

Health chiefs in Leeds want to halve the number of stillbirths in the city over the next five years, a document has revealed.

Friday, 30th April 2021, 4:18 pm
Updated Friday, 30th April 2021, 4:20 pm

A draft report, which went before Leeds City Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board, said the number of stillbirths had reduced since 2000 but has risen slightly in the past five years.

It added that nearly half of babies with low birth weights are born in the city’s most deprived neighbourhoods, while younger mums in Leeds were also far less likely to breastfeed.

The draft Leeds Maternity Strategy is now calling for plans to be put in place to have more personalised care for new mums, adding that the number of stillbirths, neonatal deaths and brain injuries should be halved by 2025.

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Leeds Civic Hall is the headquarters of Leeds City Council.

Produced by Leeds City Council, the report stated: “There are approximately 9,500 births per year in Leeds – a third to women residing in deprived Leeds. There has been an increase in the proportion of births to Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) women since 2009, with ethnic minority groups overrepresented in deprived Leeds.

“There has also been an increase in births to non-British born mothers (1,847 in 2007, 2,738 in 2017). The stillbirth rate for Leeds declined from 2000/02, however, there has been a slight upward trend since 2013/15, as well (as) a broadening inequalities gap.

“Furthermore, 43 per cent of low birth weight babies were born in deprived Leeds in 2016-2018. The percentage of mothers with obesity in Leeds has been rising, with a greater percentage residing in deprived Leeds (25.1 per cent) compared with the rate in the rest of Leeds (19.4 per cent).”

It added that “above average rates” of maternal obesity can be seen for some minority ethnic groups, while the white population in Leeds has the lowest breastfeeding initiation of all ethnicities.

Young mothers in particular were said to be much less likely to initiate breastfeeding, with the rate standing at 46 per cent of mums aged under 17 compared to 83 per cent of 33 to 37-year-olds.

The report said: “We would like every family in Leeds to see the same small team of midwives throughout their pregnancy, through labour, and after they have given birth. Families who receive this care are less likely to lose their baby or suffer from a baby being born early.

“By 2024, 75 per cent of women from ethnic minorities and from deprived areas in Leeds should receive continuity of carer.”

The document lists five priorities for the next five years, one of which is more personalised care. This means families having access to the same team of midwives throughout a pregnancy, as well as personalised care plans for each new mum.

It added: “There are significant health inequalities that begin before birth and can last for generations in terms of access, experience and outcomes. These inequalities strongly relate to poverty and specific communities, particularly those from diverse community groups.

“Some families are more likely to experience issues throughout their maternity journey, and less likely to get the help they need. The Covid-19 pandemic is likely to have amplified these inequalities. We are committed to reducing these by working closely with partner organisations and local communities.

“We have a goal to halve stillbirths, neonatal deaths and brain injuries in Leeds by 2025. Families from areas of deprivation, and from particular ethnicities, are sadly more likely to suffer from stillbirths and neonatal deaths. Women from black ethnic backgrounds are four times more likely to die during childbirth as women from white ethnic backgrounds. We want to understand why this is, and change this.”

Members of the board, which includes councillors and health professionals, agreed to adopt the report.