Cutting the UK Stillbirth Rate by 50%

The government are aiming to cut the stillbirth rate by 50% by 2020, although I am sceptical on whether or not they will achieve this unless they implement doppler scans and the Growth Assisted Protocol (GAP) for all pregnant women; at present GAP is used for high risk pregnancies, but as it only costs 50p per pregnancy it should be used for all pregnancies. It has been proven that regular doppler scan can reduce stillbirths by 50%, and GAP can reduce stillbirths by 22%.

Each year, more than 3,000 babies are stillborn in the UK, and 1,500 of these are thought to be preventable, Britain has one of the worst stillbirth rates in the developed world. Prof Kypros Nicolaides was interviewed by the BBC, he said ‘offering all women Doppler scans, which measure blood flow between the placenta and foetus, could save 1,500 babies a year’ Many stillbirths (like Sophie’s) are caused by placental insufficiency (if the blood flow is abnormal, babies are starved of food and oxygen). This can be spotted by a Doppler scan, but most hospitals use these only on the 15%-20% of women who are deemed high risk – as per national guidelines.

The BBC also reported that ‘All pregnant women who attend Prof Nicolaides NHS clinic at King’s College Hospital in London are offered the Doppler scan at 12, 22 and 32 weeks of pregnancy. We have demonstrated through extensive research that you can identify more than 90% of these cases and can easily avoid them, and we can do so through very simple adjustments in the way we deliver antenatal care’ He offers the additional scans with the support of King’s administrators, but consultants at other hospitals have been told to stop because they were acting outside NHS practice guidelines.

St George’s Hospital in London has also introduced the scan to all first-time mothers at 20 weeks, which costs £15 per mother if given at the same time as a foetal anomaly scan. Since this introduction, the hospital has seen its stillbirth rate drop by 50% in three years.

Prof Gardosi’s method involves measuring the pregnant woman’s bump and recording the measurements on a personalised growth chart. Prof Jason Gardosi, director of the Perinatal Institute in Birmingham, set up the Growth Assisted Protocol (GAP), which costs 50p per pregnancy, and can reduce the stillbirth rate by 22%. It works by giving each mother a customised growth chart developed using her height, weight at beginning of pregnancy, ethnic origin and how many children she has had. It tells her how large her baby is expected to be, for each week in the pregnancy and if the baby’s growth falls outside the expected “norm” for that individual woman, the mother is given extra scans to check that the baby is thriving.

Feel free to sign my petition to ensure that doppler scans and GAP are used for all pregnant women, you can find the petition here.

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