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First ever audit of stillbirths and deaths of young babies records 491 cases in 2011

Stillbirths accounted for 318 of the total number.

Image: baby shoes via Shutterstock

THERE WERE 491 perinatal deaths in Irish maternity hospitals in 2011, according to the first ever national audit of stillbirths and deaths of infants within their first four weeks.

Data relating to 74,265 births was collected from 20 Irish hospitals. Stillbirths accounted for 318 of the 491 (65 per cent). 138 were recorded as early neonatal deaths and 35 late neonatal deaths.

The audit was compiled by the National Perinatal Epidemiology Centre, based at UCC. It’s the first time such a report has been compiled in Ireland.

It found there was a fourfold variation in the level of stillbirths and neonatal deaths occurring in the first four weeks across the 20 Irish maternity units.

According to the report’s authors: “While this level of variation is in line with statistical expectations further investigation is required to establish the extent to which it reflects differences in the risk profiles of mothers delivered at the maternity units.”

‘Major congenital anomaly’, such as the child’s brain not developing, was the main recorded cause of perinatal deaths. They accounted for 26 per cent of stillbirths, 51 per cent of early neonatal deaths and 57 per cent of late neonatal deaths.

The report states: “These proportions are higher than reported in most European countries where about 15-20% of stillbirths and one-quarter of early neonatal deaths are due to congenital anomalies.”

The NPEC makes a number of recommendations, including the need for an ongoing audit process “in order to identify key factors impacting on adverse perinatal outcomes”.

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