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Impact of sociodemographic and clinical factors on offer and parental consent to postmortem following stillbirth or neonatal death: a UK population-based cohort study


Objective To identify factors associated with the offer of and consent to perinatal post-mortem.

Design National population-based cohort study

Setting The UK.

Population 26 578 perinatal deaths born between 1 January 2013 and 31 December 2017.

Main outcome measures Postmortem offer by clinical staff; parental consent to post-mortem.

Results Postmortem offer rates were high but varied significantly with time of death from 97.8% for antepartum deaths to 88.4% for neonatal deaths following neonatal admission. Offer rates did not significantly vary by gestation, year of birth, mother’s socioeconomic deprivation, ethnicity or age. Only 44.5% of parents consented to a postmortem. Mothers from the most deprived areas were less likely to consent than those from the least deprived areas (relative risk (RR)=0.76, 95% CI 0.71 to 0.80). Consent rates were similar for mothers of white, mixed, Asian Indian, black Caribbean and black African ethnicity (43%–47%), but significantly lower for mothers of Asian Pakistani (20%) and Asian Bangladeshi (18%) ethnicity. Consent increased with increasing gestation (p<0.001) and was lower for deaths following neonatal unit admission than for antepartum death (RR 0.71, 95% CI 0.67 to 0.75).

Conclusions The current profile of cause of perinatal deaths in the UK is likely to be biased with less postmortem information available for babies dying in the neonatal period and those born to mothers from deprived areas and of Asian Pakistani or Asian Bangladeshi ethnicity. Such bias severely limits the design of effective strategies for reducing mortality in these high-risk groups. These findings have implications for high-income countries seeking to explore and improve the understanding of perinatal deaths.

  • neonatology
  • mortality
  • health services research
  • epidemiology

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