When my son Mikki was born on 27 August last year, he made me as proud as I was sad. Mikki was born in silence. Two days earlier, my wife and I were told he had died in her womb after 34 weeks of pregnancy. At no point during those weeks did we think this might happen to us.
Knowing what I now know about stillbirth, it seems our son could have had a chance.
When Mikki’s movements decreased, instead of being reassured that all was well, his condition might have been monitored and his birth induced before it was too late.
In my country, the Netherlands, as in the UK and other high income nations, stillbirth tends to regarded as “nature’s way”, and unavoidable. About 1 in 200 babies are stillborn in most European countries – ۱۱ per day in the UK alone. These children were thought to be too weak to survive and the experience regarded as negligible compared with the death of a child after birth.
As a result, for a long time stillbirth has not been on the political agenda, and was taboo among parents. Yet experts say that up to 50 per cent of these tragedies are preventable.
It is true that some babies die in the womb as a result of severe congenital problems. But the majority do not. In those cases, as with our son, the cause of death is a dysfunctional placenta. As a result, growth and development stagnates, which can cause premature birth or, as happened to Mikki, a fatal combination of starvation and lack of oxygen.