MPs to debate ‘silent killer’ of baby deaths

MPs to debate ‘silent killer’ of baby deaths

Antoinette Sandbach

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Antoinette Sandbach lost her five-day old son to sudden infant death syndrome in 2009

MPs will take part in a landmark Commons debate later on stillbirths and other forms of baby loss.

The occasion, the first substantive debate on the issue in the Commons chamber, will be opened by Conservative MP for Eddisbury Antoinette Sandbach, who lost her five-day old son in 2009.

Ms Sandbach has described baby loss as a “silent killer” that has too often been “brushed under the carpet”.

Ministers are aiming for a 20% reduction in stillbirths by 2020.

Each year about 3,500 babies in the UK are stillborn, defined as being born with no signs of life after 24 completed weeks of pregnancy – one in every 200 babies.

Ms Sandbach said the UK had one of the highest rates of baby loss in Europe and the issue “urgently needs attending”.

‘Deeply personal’

She said Thursday’s debate, which coincides with Baby Loss Awareness Week, would allow MPs to share their own “deeply personal” experiences and those of their constituents about stillbirths, miscarriages and sudden infant death syndrome.

“This is something which has traditionally been brushed under the carpet,” she told a meeting of the backbench business committee last month.

“It is effectively a silent killer.”

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Will Quince is expected to speak in Thursday’s debate

The debate would, she added, be an opportunity to highlight the “good practice” going on around the country and to bring that to the attention of ministers.

Will Quince, who had a stillborn son last year, said he had been taken aback at the number of colleagues who had approached him since he talked about his own loss in the Commons last November.

“In Britain, we don’t like talking about death and, in particular, we don’t like talking about the death of children or babies,” the Tory MP for Colchester said.

He added that it was important to “show no subject is too taboo that we can’t discuss it on the floor of the House of Commons”.

Antenatal care

While the government’s goal of halving stillbirths by 2030 was welcome, he said debates such as these would keep the pressure on ministers.

“I think we do need to be holding their feet to the fire on that.”

Sands, a stillborn and neonatal death charity, says 60% of pregnancies that continue to term but end in stillbirths could be prevented by applying the minimum standards of antenatal care and guidance for mothers and babies.

According to NHS Choices, about 10% of stillborn babies have some kind of birth defect that contributed to their death while about half of all stillbirths are linked to complications with the placenta.

A leading obstetrician, Prof Kypros Nicolaides, told the BBC in 2014 that offering all women Doppler scans, which measure blood flow between the placenta and foetus, could save 1,500 babies a year.

MPs to debate ‘silent killer’ of baby deaths}

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