THE BLOG

The UK Could Reduce Stillbirth By a Quarter

14/07/2014 11:39 BST | Updated 06/09/2014 10:59 BST

Last week I appeared on ITV's Good Morning Britain to launch the Made to Measure campaign by the pregnancy charity, MAMA Academy. The campaign is asking all UK trusts to sign up to The Perinatal Institute's Growth Assessment Protocol (GAP) programme which better detects growth restricted babies. The PI have estimated that if all UK maternity units run GAP, 1,000 babies' lives could be saved every year.

Since appearing on GMB, people have asked me "If there's a training programme which saves babies, why isn't it made mandatory? I didn't think stillbirth was preventable".

I didn't think stillbirth was preventable either but I also didn't realise how common it was or how the UK has one of the highest stillbirth rates in the developed world. Until it happened to me. My 1st born son was stillborn when I was just under 37 weeks pregnant. He weighed just over 5lbs which is known as growth restricted. Since then, I have discovered that the majority of stillbirths are preventable as they occur so close to term.

When I sat with the Department of Health a few weeks ago, I asked them why the GAP programme wasn't being made mandatory throughout all UK trusts. They explained that any guideline issued from an official source, such as NICE or RCOG, is never mandatory, only good practice. However, NHS England had already encouraged all trusts to sign up to GAP and currently over half of maternity units have adopted it already. Our challenge was to encourage the remaining trusts to get on board. I am extremely grateful to NHS England for having this to say "We welcome the launch of MAMA Academy's Made to Measure campaign. The Perinatal Institute's Growth Assessment Protocol programme has achieved encouraging results in those areas where the programme has been most prevalent. Reducing stillbirth is a key priority for NHS England and we are encouraging uptake of the GAP programme across the NHS in England".

So what exactly does the GAP programme do?

Customised growth charts are generated using software which takes into account mum's ethnicity, weight, height and how many babies she has had, to produce a bespoke growth chart for midwives to use in the antenatal notes.

And why haven't all trusts signed up?

Well it's definitely not about cost as that's just 50p per pregnancy and has purposefully been made cost effective. Therefore it would cost a trust with an average of 3,000 births a year, £1500. Evidence suggests that running GAP is cost neutral and pays for itself. I believe that the outstanding trusts are not aware of the impact it can have and just how impressive the results of the programme are. Sadly, many midwives that I meet through my charity work are still under the impression that not much can be done to prevent stillbirth.

However, the UK finally has a stillbirth strategy which we have been waiting on for decades. It's beyond doubt that GAP offers a cheap and simple way to save precious babies' lives so all trusts should contact the Perinatal Institute as soon as possible to sign up to their Gap programme. It could mean that 3 families don't have to experience the heartache of saying goodbye to their much longed for child like we did.

Since the launch, we have had a tremendous response with many midwives and parents championing their local trust to adopt GAP. We hope that all trusts will be signed up by the end of this year.

More information about the Made to Measure campaign and how you can get involved can be found on the MAMA Academy website.