11 unborn babies die every day. This is a hideous statistic and one that could potentially be halved if some simple tests were provided for every pregnant woman, not just the women who are classified as high risk. According to this week’s Panorama there are two methods of attempting to reduce the number of stilborn babies which are being used within two London hospitals and which have seen reductions in the number of stillborn babies.
Professor Nicolaides at Kings College Hospital offers pregnant women Dopppler scans at 12 weeks, 22 weeks and at 32 weeks with the aim of identifying if placentas aren’t fucntioning well and the babies who may be struggling to grow. These scans are currently offered throughout the NHS to pregnant women who are classified as high risk. Professor Nicolaides offers this scan to all pregnant women and he wants this to be expanded across the NHS. So far the Department of Health has just asked the Professor to submit his research, which estimates that 1,500 babies could be saved each year.
At St George’s Hospital the Dopple scan is offered to all pregnant women when they have their 20 week anomaly scan. The stillbirth rate at St George’s has dropped by 50% in three years.
The second method of aiming to identify babies who are not growing and thriving in the womb is the Growth Assisted Protocol (GAP) which has been created by Professor Gardosi from the Perinatal Institute. This customised growth chart uses a pregnant women height, weight, ethinity and the number of children she has given birth to to create a unique growth chart for her baby. Pregnant women will be sent for more scans if the growth chart indicates that her baby is not growing as expected.
The growth chart would cost 50p per pregnant woman and the Doppler scans would cost £15 per pregnant woman. These are not huge costs and I believe these methods should be used if it means saving the lives of more babies. I very much believe that mum and nature knows best in the vast majority of situations but it is clear that a huge percentage of stillborn babies could be saved if we knew they were struggling. I am not niave, not all babies can be saved and there may be medical reasons why some babies can’t survive but if this can be prevented then measures must be taken, no matter the cost. I have held my dead baby, I have wished him alive, I have grieved, I have been broken by babyloss and I wouldn’t wish this pain anyone.
Stillbirth needs to be given more priority and not just swept away as one of those things.Yes, not all babies can be protected and saved but the effort needs to be made to save the babies who are struggling in the womb.