Objective There has been little change in stillbirth rates in the NHS over the last decade. At the same time, there has been a gradual increase in the average age of the maternity population. We wanted to investigate the effect that maternal age has on the stillbirth rate in our population.
Method The data were derived from a regional database of 2025 stillbirths which occurred between 2005 and 2009, during which time there were 348 452 births (rate 5.8 per thousand). Maternal age was analysed in seven groups, and causes of death were summarised according to the main ReCoDe categories, with IUGR defined as a birthweight below the 10th customised centile.
Results The table shows stillbirth rates for each maternal age group. They are significantly elevated from age 35 onwards and show an increase of 58% for women aged 40 or above. Analysis in the main stillbirth classification groups showed that this excess was due to increased rates of congenital anomalies (OR 2.5, CI 1.7–3.7) and fetal growth restriction (OR 1.6, CI 1.2–2.2). When these two factors were excluded, high maternal age was not associated with an increase in stillbirths.
Conclusion Increased risk associated with high maternal age can be addressed by offering appropriate screening for fetal anomalies and improved surveillance of intrauterine growth.
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