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'Why are black babies dying more?' Stillbirth rate of black babies almost twice that of white babies

Concerning data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) report a stark variation in maternity tragedy between black and white families in England.

The death of black babies before or during delivery is almost twice that of white babies, with families from mixed and multiple ethnic groups registering the highest increase in stillbirths, the figures show.

The death rate of black babies before or during delivery continues to be the highest, with 6.9 stillbirths per 1,000 births registered in 2021, compared with 3.6 per 1,000 white babies. Campaigners warn that little is known about the reasons behind the data, but have called for urgent targeted support for black women.

Since 2007, stillbirth rates overall had been declining but increased again in 2021. Those from mixed or multiple ethnic groups registered the highest rise. The ONS data also show black women have the highest proportion of pre-term births (babies born before the 37th week of pregnancy).

The death rate in the most deprived areas of England was twice the rate of that in the least deprived. There were 5.6 stillbirths per 1,000 in 2021 in the 10% most deprived areas compared with 2.7 in the 10% least deprived.

Clotilde Rebecca Abe, a co-founder of FiveXMore, a campaign group for maternity safety, said the figures highlighted that little was known about the causes of the disparities.

“We need to find the root of the issue. I want to know, in terms of stillbirth, why are black babies dying more? And what are the causes behind it? Are black babies dying from the same thing that white babies are dying from? What are the causes of this?

“Should we be looking at the mother’s history and the mother as well? Is it because black women aren’t being listened to? So when they say reduced foetal movements and things should be done, is it not getting done on time?

"Are they having traumatic births? Is it because they are having rushed C-sections? What is the issue that is affecting the child? Is it a condition that the mother had that went undiagnosed during a pregnancy? What exactly is it?”

Find more information about stillbirth and birth injury claims.

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