26/06/2012 02:16 BST

Stillbirths 'Twice As Likely In Poor Women', Damning New Research Reveals

Stillbirths are twice as common in poorer women than those in more affluent areas, according to research which lays bare the divide between the rich and poor in England.

The study, looking at stillbirths across England from 2000-2007, also found that women from deprived areas were three-times more likely to suffer a stillbirth if they had a bleed before their due date.

According to the research, published in the online journal BMJ Open, the inequality gap was the same across an eight year period.

stillbirth poor women

The study looked at data between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2007

Leicester university's Dr Lucy Smith, one of the study's authors said the pattern was "likely" to still exist in 2012 because little was changed.

"If the rate were the same across the country as in the least deprived areas there'd be a third less stillbirths in England. About 900 fewer every year," she told The Huffington Post UK.

Dr Smith said there were "complex" reasons why women in deprived areas were having more stillbirths, but they had found maternity care when delivering baby was the same throughout all areas.

"I think there's very complex reasons underlying the inequalities we're seeing at the area level. Some of things will be things like different access to health care, lifestyle choices like obesity or smoking in pregnancy, and loads of others," she said.

"The trouble is about half of them we don't know why they're apparently normal pregnancies that end in stillbirth."

Jane Brewin, Chief Executive of the baby's charity Tommy’s, called on poorer mums-to-be to be given more support.

"Certain lifestyle behaviours - such as smoking, poor diet, being obese - can all be contributing factors to increasing the risk of stillbirth, as can underlying health conditions which go undiagnosed, such as diabetes," she told The Huffington Post UK.

"In deprived areas, these risk factors are exacerbated by the fact that pregnant women may not have the best access to health advice, or knowledge of the risk factors and warning signs.

"The problem we face across all socio-economic groups is that we currently have only very limited knowledge to find those women in their first pregnancy who are at risk of suffering a stillbirth and so many problems go undetected until it's too late - this problem will carry on until we have more funds for research and can move closer to an accurate predictive test."

The study comes as fresh research paints a damning picture of the problems facing families in Britain, with one in five saying they feel stretched the financial downturn.

Research by Scottish Widows think tank the Centre for the Modern Family out on Tuesday showed some parents were having to choose between food for themselves, and food for their child.

Looking at 1,500 adults, the research revealed the "increasingly desperate" measures being taken to cope with the impact of recession, creating a group of "on the brink" Britons.

austerity britain

A new report suggests families are being pushed to breaking point because of the state of their finances

Linda, a 31-year-old mother-of-one and childminder told The Huffington Post UK: "I don't always have lunch. My husband doesn't always have lunch. The main person is our little child."

The chair of the think tank Lord Leitch said their findings painted "a stark and in some cases desperate picture of family life in Britain."