Report into intrapartum stillbirths during COVID-19 published by HSIB

on 16 September 2021

A report into intrapartum stillbirth during the COVID-19 pandemic has been published by the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB).

The latest report from the HSIB looked into 37 stillbirths that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic between April and June 2020.

According to the report none of the women were known to have had COVID-19, however pressures and changes to maternity care may have impacted the care they received.

The report also highlighted safety risks that were already known to maternity services, which were found to be exacerbated by the pandemic.

Commenting on the report, Principal National Investigator at HSIB Kathryn Whitehill said: “We recognise that the current maternity system has had success through national initiatives in reducing the number of stillbirths and that throughout the pandemic, thousands of babies were delivered without any problems.

“However, our review did highlight the extreme pressure maternity services were under  - they had to balance the risks associated with uncertainty and emerging evidence on COVID-19 transmission with the clinical assessments that are needed to monitor the safety of patients. We also felt it was crucial to reflect the experience of women and pregnant people to emphasise how the changes of services affected them and their families.”

In conclusion to the report, eight safety recommendations were highlighted which can be found here.

The report also highlighted that the rates of stillbirths among Black, Asian and minority ethnic women continued to show the inequalities that exist in maternity care.

The Royal College of Midwives Director for Professional Midwifery, Dr Mary Ross-Davie, said: “While this report doesn’t reflect the full national picture it is nonetheless devastating for the women and their families who have lost their babies.

“Ethnicity and language barriers are a big issue in this report with only a quarter of those that needed interpretation services getting them. Investment in this area and service improvements are urgently needed so women and their families have access to 24/7 translation or interpretation services.”

The full HSIB report ‘Intrapartum stillbirth: learning from maternity safety investigations that occurred between the COVID-19 pandemic 1 April to 30 June 2020’ can be found here.