The number babies who are stillborn or dying in the first few weeks of life has risen in the UK, reversing an eight-year-long trend.
An annual report from researchers at Oxford and Leicester universities shows that there were 3.54 stillbirths per 1,000 births in 2021, up from 3.33 in 2020.
A similar rise was seen for neonatal deaths — when a baby dies within 28 days of being born — from 1.53 per 1,000 live births in 2020 to 1.65 in 2021.
Premature births increased by 1.5 per cent.
Researchers said the figures put an end to the ‘consistent reduction in UK rates since 2013’, while charities warned that the figures paint ‘an alarming picture of baby loss’.
The data was published by Mothers and Babies: Reducing Risk through Audit and Confidential Enquiries (MBRRACE-UK), which is jointly led by Oxford Population Health’s National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit (NPEU) and the University of Leicester’s The Infant Mortality and Morbidity Studies (TIMMS).
It shows that 698,909 babies were born at 24 weeks — classed as extremely premature — or later in the UK in 2021, an increase of 1.5 per cent on 2020.
Stillbirth rates increased among all gestational age groups, with a 12 per cent jump in stillbirths among babies born between 28 and 31 weeks.
Babies born before 37 weeks accounted for 75 per cent of stillbirths and late foetal losses, as well as 73 per cent of neonatal deaths.
The most common causes of stillbirth were placental, congenital anomalies, cord and infection, with more than half (51.7 per cent) falling into these groups.