Together for Short Lives
Call the Helpline 0808 8088 100

Healthcare and wider societal implications of stillbirth: a population-based cost-of-illness study

Journal title
BJOG : an international journal of obstetrics and gynaecology
Publication year
Campbell, H. E.; Kurinczuk, J. J.; Heazell, A.; Leal, J.; Rivero-Arias, O.

OBJECTIVE: To extend previous work and estimate health and social care costs, litigation costs, funeral-related costs, and productivity losses associated with stillbirth in the UK. DESIGN: A population-based cost-of-illness study using a synthesis of secondary data. SETTING: The National Health Service (NHS) and wider society in the UK. POPULATION: Stillbirths occurring within a 12-month period and subsequent events occurring over the following 2 years. METHODS: Costs were estimated using published data on events, resource use, and unit costs. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Mean health and social care costs, litigation costs, funeral-related costs, and productivity costs for 2 years, reported for a single stillbirth and at a national level. RESULTS: Mean health and social care costs per stillbirth were pound4191. Additionally, funeral-related costs were pound559, and workplace absence (parents and healthcare professionals) was estimated to cost pound3829 per stillbirth. For the UK, the annual health and social care costs were estimated at pound13.6 million, and total productivity losses amounted to pound706.1 million (98% of this cost was attributable to the loss of the life of the baby). The figures for total productivity losses were sensitive to the perspective adopted about the loss of life of the baby. CONCLUSION: This work expands the current intelligence on the costs of stillbirth beyond the health service to costs for parents and society, and yet these additional findings must still be regarded as conservative estimates of the true economic costs. TWEETABLE ABSTRACT: The costs of stillbirth are significant, affecting the health service, parents, professionals, and society. PLAIN LANGUAGE SUMMARY: Why and how was the study carried out? The personal, social, and emotional consequences of stillbirth are profound. Placing a monetary value on such consequences is emotive, yet necessary, when deciding how best to invest limited healthcare resources. We estimated the average costs associated with a single stillbirth and the costs for all stillbirths occurring in the UK over a 1-year period. What were the main findings? The average cost to the National Health Service (NHS) of care related to the stillbirth and a first subsequent pregnancy was pound4191 for each stillbirth. For the UK, this cost was pound13.6 million annually. Clinical negligence payments to bereaved parents were estimated at pound2.5 million per year. Parents were estimated to spend pound1.8 million per year on funerals. The cost of workplace absence as parents cope with the effects of grief was estimated at pound2476 per stillbirth. For the UK, this cost was pound8.1 million annually. The loss of a baby is also the loss of an individual with the potential to become a valued and productive member of society. The expected value of an adult’s lifetime working hours was taken as an estimate of this productivity loss, and was pound213,304 for each stillbirth. The annual cost for all stillbirths was pound694 million. We know from parents that the birth of a subsequent child in no way replaces a stillborn baby. We found that 52% of women fall pregnant within 12 months of a stillbirth. From a purely economic perspective concerned only with the number of individuals in society, babies born during this period could potentially replace the productivity losses of the stillborn baby. Adopting this approach, which we understand is controversial and difficult for bereaved parents, the expected productivity losses would be lower, at pound333 million. What are the limitations of the work? For some categories, existing data were unavailable and we used clinical opinion to estimate costs. Furthermore, we were unable to quantify some indirect consequences, for example the psychological distress experienced by wider family members. What is the implication for parents? Placing a monetary value on what is for parents a profound personal tragedy may seem unkind. It is, however, unavoidable if we are to provide policy makers with vital information on the wide-ranging consequences that could be prevented through future investments in initiatives to reduce stillbirth.

Research abstracts