Hull University Teaching Hospitals have seen a huge fall in their rate of stillbirth since committing to save babies' lives

In the UK, 9 babies are stillborn every single day. Despite our fantastic NHS, 23 high-income countries have lower stillbirth rates than the UK. But - is change finally on the horizon?

The maternity team at Hull Women and Children's Hospital have reduced the number of babies dying by more than one third in just two years. 

Head of Midwifery Janet Cairns said: “Any stillbirth is a tragedy and we have been working closely with parents, local and national charities to improve the way we look after families who experience such sad events.

“Sadly, we will never know what causes some stillbirths.

“However, we know factors such as smoking in pregnancy or reduced moments can lead to stillbirth and we are pleased to see such a dramatic reduction in such a short space of time.”

The rate of stillbirth varies in different regions in England, Hull has previously had more stillbirths than other areas. It's thought that high levels of both smoking and obesity contributed.

How have they achieved the reduction?

Taclking smoking

Hull now has its lowest rate of pregnant smokers in more than a decade, with the number falling from 23% to 18% in less than two years.

Healthy lifestyle midwives have worked hard to encourage more women to give up smoking during pregnancy, working with stop smoking services at City Health Care Partnership. As standard, all women are given a carbon monoxide test at their booking in appointment and again once they reach 36 weeks. Women who continue to smoke are monitored carefully, having carbon monoxide tests at every appointment and a close eye kept on their baby's growth. 

Baby movement awareness

Kicks really do count! Maternity staff teach women about the importance of monitoring their babies’ movements, ensuring they know what to do if they fell their baby's movements have reduced. Women have been being given movement information leaflets with their pregnancy notes.

Keeping an eye on growth

Fetal growth restriction (FGR) is the biggest risk factor for stillbirth, with one in three full-term deaths linked to babies not growing properly in the womb, and staff in the obstetric ultrasound department have been playing a key role in the reduction of stillbirths.

Midwives and doctors have also received additional training to measure growth and women identified with babies who are “small for gestational age” are monitored closely in later pregnancy.

Midwifery and medical staff undertake annual training in in cardiotocography (CTG) – the monitoring of babies’ heart rates during labour – to prevent stillbirths and severe brain injuries. Last year, staff attended bespoke master classes in CTG interpretation.

Spot checks are carried out every week to ensure staff are meeting standards expected for CTG monitoring and the trust also operates a “fresh eyes” system where CTG readings are double-checked by another member of staff with the correct procedure followed if concerns are raised.