Stillbirths decline in England and Wales in first three quarters of 2020, according to ONS

on 09 December 2020

Stillbirths in England and Wales declined between January and September 2020, according to the latest statistics from the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

According to the data, there were 1,835 stillbirths in the first three quarters of 2020, 130 fewer than the same period in 2019, resulting in a decline of the stillbirth rate from 4.0 per 1,000 births in 2019 to 3.9 in 2020 so far.

Looking at the data by each quarter, stillbirths declined between January and March in quarter 1 and July to September in quarter 3. However, quarter 2 remained the same as 2019 at 4.0 per 1,000 births.

By each month, stillbirths in the first three quarters of 2020 saw a decline except in January and April, but overall rates for 2020 remained below the five-year average.

April saw the highest number of stillbirths this year so far, and the highest since September 2018, which coincides with the height of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report says: “Each and every stillbirth is a tragedy for the family involved, but the number of stillbirths that occur each month in England and Wales is relatively small and monthly stillbirth rates are volatile. The higher stillbirth rate seen in April 2020 reflects a total of 213 stillbirths, which was three more than in March 2020 and 11 more than April 2019. The stillbirth rate seen in April 2020 was not notably higher from a statistical perspective compared with other months.”

The full report from the ONS on stillbirth rates in England and Wales can be found here.

Commenting on the latest report, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) CEO Gill Walton said: “This is simply great news and an incredible achievement to keep the momentum going and keep stillbirth rates falling, especially during the pandemic. It is a testament to the dedication and efforts of our maternity staff and their NHS colleagues, and it shows that maternity services are becoming safer and delivering better care.

“Every loss is a heart-breaking and personal tragedy and the challenge now is to keep pushing the rates down. This means intensifying efforts, really focusing care on those most at risk, and learning when things do go wrong to make improvements so that care is even safer.”