A major national audit of stillbirths and other perinatal deaths up to four weeks after birth has been published by the National Perinatal Epidemiology Centre, based in Cork, which works with Ireland’s 20 maternity hospitals to bring about improvements in maternity services.See Independent report.
Each of the maternity units reported detailed information to the centre whenever it recorded a perinatal death - a stillbirth or neonatal death occurring up to 28 days.
The audit shows that major congenital anomaly - such as the brain not developing - was the most common cause of deathhighlighting the need to establish perinatal hospice care for babies with fatal fetal abnormalities such as anencephaly .
The study indicates that there were 491 perinatal deaths in the Republic of Ireland during 2011, with stillbirths accounting for the majority of these. The death rates in hospitals varied from 1.9 per 1,000 births to 9.1 per 1,000 births. However when babies with fatal birth defects were excluded and only those who could possibly have survived are counted, the death rates again ranged from 1.5 per 1,000 births to 6.6 per 1,000 births.
The perinatal hospice approach walks with families on their journey through pregnancy, birth, and death, honoring the baby as well as the baby's family. Perinatal hospice is not a place; it is more a frame of mind. It is a way of caring for the pregnant mother, the baby, the father, and all involved with dignity and love. Even in areas without a formal program, parents can create a loving experience for themselves and their baby, and health professionals and family and friends can offer support in the spirit of hospice care.
Overall the study shows that Irish perinatal mortality rates compare favourably with British and European rates. However, the experts who compiled the audit have called for access to specialist perinatal pathology services in each health service region to reduce the mortality rate further.