Figures from one London hospital found the number of stillbirths had been 4 times higher during the pandemic, highlighting the potential indirect impact of COVID 19.

The study conducted at St George’s Hospital compared incidents of stillbirth during the period February to June 2020 with those during the preceding 4 months.

The worrying figures show that incidence of stillbirth was significantly higher during the pandemic period (9.3 per 1000 births) than during the prepandemic period (2.38 per 1000 births).

When the figures were adjusted to exclude late terminations and fetal abnormalities the increase was greater (from 1.19 per 1000 births to 6.98).

None of the pregnant women who experienced stillbirth had symptoms suggestive of COVID-19, nor did the postmortem or placental examinations suggest SARS-CoV-2 infection (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2768389).

Whilst none of the stillbirths were known to be directly associated with COVID-19, the results are suggestive of a significant indirect link.

Potential explanations include reluctance to attend hospital with concerns, for example with reduced fetal movements, due to fear of contracting the virus or simply not wanting to burden the NHS.

Changes in the way that obstetric services have been provided during the pandemic may also had an impact. However, although has been a reduction in face to face antenatal appointments to minimise infection risks and in some cases due to staff shortages, access to antenatal care, screening tests and ultrasounds has continued throughout the pandemic.

It is important that those who need antenatal care or have concerns about their pregnancy know that medical support and advice is available and being provided in a safe way.

We have specialist expertise in clinical negligence cases surrounding stillbirth and baby loss. If you have suffered the loss of a baby, and you have concerns about your treatment, please feel free to contact Catherine Bell or Carolyn Lowe for a free, informal discussion on 01865 781 000 for a free initial discussion, or email catherine.bell@freeths.co.uk / carolyn.lowe@freeths.co.uk

Freeths LLP are proud to support and be recommended by the Foundation for Infant Loss.

The Freeths national clinical negligence department is led by:

Carolyn Lowe, Partner (Oxford/Milton Keynes/London/Bristol) on 0186 578 1019, carolyn.lowe@freeths.co.uk

Karen Reynolds, Partner (Derby/Stoke on Trent/Birmingham) on 0845 272 5677, karen.reynolds@freeths.co.uk

Jane Williams, Partner (Leicester/Nottingham/Sheffiled/Leeds) on 0845 272 5724, jane.williams@freeths.co.uk