What are the chances of my baby dying?

A few weeks ago, one of my clients (pregnant with her first baby, due any time) and her partner came to see me for an antenatal appointment. Both of them had read the book ‘Baby Daze’ and discussed with me their feelings after reading one of the stories where a baby died some time during birth. As a couple, they discussed the story. The male partner said ‘I just couldn’t read the story anymore’ and the woman was very teary at the reality that her baby ‘may not make it’. There were no guarantees as she put it.

I went on to discuss with them, that because it was her first pregnancy, and that all had been uncomplicated to date, the chances of her baby not making it were very low. But, if she and they were to be the one to lose their baby, the stakes are indeed very high.

No pregnancy or birth is completely safe. Just like driving a car, we get into our cars and dont even think of the chance of dying in a car accident, but just like pregnancy and childbirth, the risks are low, but the stakes are high if you are the one involved in that accident.

I’ve done a bit of research on the risks of losing your baby in pregnancy and birth, and in the first 4 weeks after birth.

Looking at all births in 2011 in Australia, according to the Consultative Council on Perinatal Mortality and Morbidity, 11.9/1000 babies will die during pregnancy, labour or within the first 4 weeks after birth. Most

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of these deaths are related to severe prematurity, so when we remove this issue, and look at babies born between 37 weeks and 42 weeks, 1.8/1000 babies will die.

Interestingly for teenage mothers 19.8/1000 babies will die, and 12.9/1000 babies will die in women aged >40 years old. The chance of losing your first baby for any reason (prematurity and congenital abnormalities included) is 8.7/1000 and for women that have had a baby before, this risk drops to 6.4/1000 births.

Also, 30% of all stillbirths and neonatal deaths were as a result of congenital abnormalities.

Therefore, the chance of a healthy first time mother losing her baby is very small, but the chance is still there, and despite rising intervention rates, and caesarean section rates, the numbers of babies dying without any identified reason appears to have remained fairly steady in Australia over the past 10 years (this is the topic for another blog entry, so I won’t address this issue now).

I’m pleased to say that my couple had a healthy baby girl, born beautifully and peacefully into water in excellent health under torch light. They are over the moon with joy and happiness.


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