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RCOG responds to study showing stillbirth risk higher in mothers who experience high stress levels

News 29 October 2020

Tommy’s Manchester Research Centre has today released a study to show that women from the most deprived socio-economic group were at almost triple the risk of stillbirth than those at the other end of the scale. Mothers experiencing psychological stress were also more likely to have stillborn children. 

The scientists studied more than 1,000 births across 41 UK hospitals between 2014 and 2016. They combined information typically used to measure stillbirth risk with an interviewer-led questionnaire about mothers’ behaviour and social characteristics. 

Tommy’s, The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) formed an alliance and launched The Tommy’s National Centre for Maternity Improvement on 1 September 2019. The three-year programme of work involves the creation of a digital tool – an app – to personalise and improve maternity care for women.

Professor Basky Thilaganathan, Clinical Director of the RCOG and RCM Tommy's National Centre for Maternity Improvement, said:

"We welcome the research from Tommy’s Manchester Research Centre that identifies the risk of stillbirth among those with mental health problems and from different socioeconomic backgrounds. 

"At the moment, pregnant women are being grouped into certain categories based on their age, weight and medical conditions, rather than being assessed as an individual. The current system leads to around a quarter of women being unreliably labelled as high risk at the start of their pregnancy, and isn't particularly good at identifying women whose pregnancies eventually result in stillbirth.

"Every woman should receive the right care at the right time, and that this care needs to be personalised to them. We have been developing a digital tool – an app – that will more accurately assess a woman’s risk of developing pregnancy complications that can cause stillbirth. The app will use information already gathered by midwives and obstetricians, as well as information entered by women themselves, to provide personalised care recommendations for everyone. This app will provide another opportunity for midwives and obstetricians to develop supportive relationships with the women in their care and encourage open and honest conversations about the issues which impact upon their pregnancy and their wellbeing."