Updated: Sunday, 24th March 2019 @ 6:39am

Stillbirths could be 'twice as likely' for women with mental health issues, experts at Manchester conference claim

Stillbirths could be 'twice as likely' for women with mental health issues, experts at Manchester conference claim

By Ben Ireland

Stillbirths could be linked to mental health issues, experts at a Manchester conference between specialists in the field claimed this week.

Specialist doctors from across the globe met at the University of Manchester in a world-leading research conference into reducing the risk of stillbirth.

Dr Alexander Heazell, Clinical Lecturer in Obstetrics from Manchester University, said: “There is very strong evidence to suggest that still birth is related to mental health issues.”

Almost 1.5million births were studied by researchers at the Centre for Women’s Mental Health at The University of Manchester between 1973 and 2008.

The risk of stillbirth was at least twice as high for mothers admitted with serious psychiatric illness.

Manchester leads the way for research into stillbirth, which affects over 4,000 mothers a year with 11 babies still born a day in the UK alone.

The conference saw specialists coming from as far as the United States, Holland and Norway on Monday and Tuesday, who rarely get a chance to meet and share research methods or analyse each other’s data.

Kate Anker, Chair of UK charity Sands, who help fund research into stillbirth, said: “It’s wonderful to have a handful of the world’s experts in placental dysfunction here.

“It’s about raising awareness,” she added. “Sharing knowledge from other countries and bringing the parents voice is what we stand for.”

The doctors present all raised issues around parents’ awareness – saying that without more raw data they can’t forge concrete conclusions.

An e-petition asking for all stillbirths to be looked into by the coroner’s office closed on Wednesday, but many experts were quick to voice their concerns with this.

Dr Ed Johnstone, a clinical senior lecturer at the University of Manchester, said: “Coroners are limited as they are not specially trained in neonatal areas.”

He argued that although developing a national database may be beneficial for quantitative studies, the effects to the parents cannot be overlooked.

“Stillbirth causes a lot of trauma for parents and investigations and post mortems get in the way of the grieving process.

“They may have to wait to bury their child.”

Presentations confirmed more studies were needed to move Britain on from recording on of the highest number of stillbirths in the developed world.

All in attendance agreed that reduced fetal movements are clear indicators to expecting mothers that the baby might not be getting enough nutrients to grow properly.

In the discussion session, American researchers said that if mothers feel less than 10 movements an hour they are encouraged to contact their doctor.

Doctors said information is not readily available for parents, and called for more measures to be implemented to help increase understanding.

Manchester’s St Mary’s Hospital is launching a new clinic, which will offer support to mothers.

Dr Heazell echoed Dr Johnstone’s points about the difficulties in obtaining the data required without causing problems for the mothers, and they should be treated on a compassionate case-by-case basis.

Photo courtesy of Trevor Bair, with thanks.

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