Childbirth Deaths, Brain Injury Risk is Avoidable: Study

New research on risk of childbirth injuries suggests that three out of every four infant deaths or severe injuries during childbirth may be preventable if a different medical care had been provided. 

The study was published last week in the medical journal The BMJ, suggesting that hundreds of childbirth deaths and brain injuries could be avoided every year.

Researchers with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in the U.K. conducted the study, which is a part of the college’s “Each Baby Counts” initiative, which seeks to reduce unnecessary childbirth brain injuries and deaths 50% by 2020 in that country.

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The study looked at more than 2,500 expert assessments into local reviews of the care of 1,136 babies born in the UK in 2015, finding that 126 were stillborn, 156 died within the first seven days after being born and 854 suffered severe brain injuries.

Researchers got enough data to look at 727 of the cases in-depth, determining that 76% could have been avoided with different care. However, the researchers found that a quarter of cases they sought to look at did not have enough complete information to make an analysis.

“This is the first time the Each Baby Counts team has been in a position to identify and share the lessons learned across the whole UK maternity service,” Professor Zarko Alfirevic, co-principal investigator and consultant obstetrician at Liverpool Women’s Hospital, said in a June 21 press release. “However, until every incident is thoroughly investigated and important lessons identified locally, our understanding of the national picture will remain incomplete. The focus of a local investigation should be on finding system-wide solutions for improving the quality of care, rather than actions focusing only on individuals.”

The report identified fetal monitoring, neonatal care, and avoiding human-driven medical mistakes as areas that doctors and midwives should focus on to prevent unnecessary birth injuries and deaths.

The program next intends to seek feedback and work with maternity teams in the U.K. to make sure that recommendations in the report are acted upon.

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