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ObjectivesTo investigate inequalities in stillbirth rates by ethnicity to facilitate development of initiatives to target those at highest risk.DesignPopulation-based perinatal mortality surveillance linked to national birth and death registration (Mothers and Babies: Reducing Risk through Audits and Confidential Enquiries across the UK).SettingUK.Participants4 391 569 singleton births at ≥24+0 weeks gestation between 2014 and 2019.Main outcome measuresStillbirth rate difference per 1000 total births by ethnicity.ResultsAdjusted absolute differences in stillbirth rates were higher for babies of black African (3.83, 95% CI 3.35 to 4.32), black Caribbean (3.60, 95% CI 2.65 to 4.55) and Pakistani (2.99, 95% CI 2.58 to 3.40) ethnicities compared with white ethnicities. Higher proportions of babies of Bangladeshi (42%), black African (39%), other black (39%) and black Caribbean (37%) ethnicities were from most deprived areas, which were associated with an additional risk of 1.50 stillbirths per 1000 births (95% CI 1.32 to 1.67). Exploring primary cause of death, higher stillbirth rates due to congenital anomalies were observed in babies of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and black African ethnicities (range 0.63-1.05 per 1000 births) and more placental causes in black ethnicities (range 1.97 to 2.24 per 1000 births). For the whole population, over 40% of stillbirths were of unknown cause; however, this was particularly high for babies of other Asian (60%), Bangladeshi (58%) and Indian (52%) ethnicities.ConclusionsStillbirth rates declined in the UK, but substantial excess risk of stillbirth persists among babies of black and Asian ethnicities. The combined disadvantage for black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnicities who are more likely to live in most deprived areas is associated with considerably higher rates. Key causes of death were congenital anomalies and placental causes. Improved strategies for investigation of stillbirth causes are needed to reduce unexplained deaths so that interventions can be targeted to reduce stillbirths.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ open

Publication Date





Department of Health Sciences, College of Life Sciences, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK


MBRRACE-UK Collaboration