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Stillbirths and neonatal deaths


Author: Sara Westwood

Clinical Negligence

Sara Westwood, Partner and Medical Negligence Expert at Hatch Brenner Solicitors in Norwich

Sara Westwood, Partner and Medical Negligence Expert at Hatch Brenner Solicitors in Norwich

June is the SANDS Awareness Month, which aims to raise awareness of stillbirth and neonatal deaths and the impact this can have on those who have experienced the loss of a baby. The campaign also aims to raise vital funds to support research into neonatal deaths.

At present, a consultation has been launched on the government proposals which could change the current system where coroners can only hold an inquest if the baby showed any sign of life after being born. The consultation will run for 12 weeks, closing on the 18th June and can be viewed here.

Stillbirths and Neonatal Deaths

The death of a baby is considered a stillbirth after 24 weeks gestation and when the baby is delivered with no signs of life. If a baby dies earlier in the pregnancy, it is classed as a miscarriage. In as many of 60% of stillbirths in the UK, there is no apparent cause.

Causes of stillbirths include:

  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Birth trauma
  • Infections during pregnancy

The death of a baby is considered a neonatal death when the baby dies in the first 28 days of life. In the last decade the number of neonatal deaths has dropped, and this is largely due to advances in medical knowledge and clinical care.

Causes of neonatal death include:

  • Prematurity
  • Infection
  • Obstetric complications

When a baby is stillborn, tests can be offered to find the cause of death. These may include blood tests, testing for infections or genetic tests such as Down’s syndrome. It is not essential to have these, but parents often do, to try and avoid problems in future pregnancies.

Following the death of a baby there may also be a post-mortem, which involves the examination of the baby’s body to provide information into how the baby has died. These cannot go ahead without written consent and the different options will be explained to help parents decide if they wish for one to be carried out.

Birth Injury Claims

The loss of a baby is a devastating event, and it can be extremely difficult for the parents and families to come to terms with what has happened. In most cases, parents want to know the cause of death, and if the death could have been prevented.

Stillbirths and neonatal deaths can be unavoidable, however, unfortunately in some cases, a healthy baby can die as the result of poor care or an injury sustained during pregnancy or delivery. If complications during pregnancy or delivery are misdiagnosed or mis-treated then there may be grounds to claim compensation.

Solicitor Sara Westwood recently represented a client who was admitted into hospital, in labour, when just over 33 weeks into her third pregnancy. Considered a high-risk pregnancy, mum had already been discharged a few hours earlier having been admitted three days earlier when her waters broke.

Monitoring of the baby’s heart commenced very quickly and within 30 minutes the heart trace indicated that the baby was struggling. Unfortunately, the decision to perform a caesarean section wasn’t taken until 22 minutes later, and it was another 82 minutes before the baby was delivered. Sadly, the baby was born in a very poor condition and required 15 minutes of resuscitation and significant intensive care. Serious brain damage was sustained as a result of having been deprived of oxygen with the consequence the baby developed cerebral palsy,

The baby passed away at only 10 months of age, due to complications of cerebral palsy. The claim was settled through mediation for £40,000.00.

Partner Sara Westwood is highly experienced in dealing with stillbirth and neonatal death claims and handles these cases with sensitivity and compassion. She can be contacted for a confidential consultation about your case on 01603 660 811 or via email: sarawestwood@hatchbrenner.co.uk.co.uk

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