Essex: New initiative to reduce stillbirths in north Essex

Midwife Tracy Baxter measures the fundal height of Emma Zima, 37, of Oakapple Close, Colchester, at

Midwife Tracy Baxter measures the fundal height of Emma Zima, 37, of Oakapple Close, Colchester, at Colchester General Hospital - Credit: Archant

A new programme which aims to reduce the number of stillbirths has been launched in north east Essex.

The Growth Assisted Protocol (GAP) sees each expectant mother given a customised growth chart to track how large her baby should be during each week of pregnancy.

If the baby’s growth falls outside what it is expected then extra health checks, including ultrasound scans, are given to make sure the baby is doing well.

It is hoped that the monitoring system will provide an early warning of any problems leading to prompt intervention, in some cases delivering the baby early by Caesarean section.

Sandra Gosling, a practice development midwife based at Colchester General Hospital, has been working with the Perinatal Institute to train all midwives and doctors providing pregnancy care. So far, 80 midwives employed by Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust have completed training.

She said: “The beauty of this technique is that it is very simple and inexpensive, yet highly effective.

“It is already standard practice to record a pregnant woman’s fundal height, which is a measure of the size of the womb used to assess fetal growth and development during pregnancy.

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“What’s new is that we now have special software to produce customised growth charts for individual women by taking into account her height, weight at the start of pregnancy, ethnic origin and how many children she has had.

“There is clear evidence to show that the GAP programme reduces the number of stillbirths and while the rate in north east Essex in recent years has been either below or at the national average, I am confident this new method will save the lives of unborn babies and save their families from enormous grief.”

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