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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Assessing the determinants of stillbirths and early neonatal deaths using routinely collected data in an inner city area

Nigel C Smeeton1*, Roberto J Rona1, Pamela Dobson2, Ruth Cochrane3 and Charles Wolfe1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Public Health Sciences, King's College London, Guy's, King's and St. Thomas' Hospitals Medical School, London SE1 3QD, UK

2 King's Healthcare NHS Trust, King's College Hospital, London SE5 9RS, UK

3 Lewisham Hospital NHS Trust, University Hospital Lewisham, London SE13 6LH, UK

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BMC Medicine 2004, 2:27  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-2-27

Published: 6 July 2004



Within the UK there is considerable variation in the perinatal mortality rate. The objective of this study was to assess the factors associated with stillbirths and early neonatal deaths (ENND) and the suitability of the available databases in a health authority with one of the highest rates in the country.


Two case-control studies were carried out in three hospital trusts in the Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham Health Authority, London, using routinely collected information. In one study, 342 stillbirths and 1,368 controls were included, and in the other study, 205 ENND and 820 controls were included. In the two studies cases and controls were matched for hospital trust.


A birthweight below 1.5 kg was found in 54% and 48% of the stillbirths and ENND, respectively. More than 50% of the cases, stillbirths and ENND, had a length of gestation below 32 weeks. Length of gestation, birthweight, emergency caesarean section and age of the mother were associated with stillbirths. Birthweight and Apgar score at 1 minute as a categorical variable were associated with ENND. There was no direct evidence of an effect of social deprivation on the outcomes of interest.


Birthweight and length of gestation are the most influential factors on an unfavourable outcome. Conception at an older age has a serious impact on stillbirth rates. In our health authority social disadvantage did not have a direct impact on stillbirth and ENND. Maternity information systems should collect routine data on fewer variables, but their quality in terms of value, standardization and completion rates must improve.