Objective: To evaluate gestation-specific risks of stillbirth, neonatal and post-neonatal mortality.
Design: Retrospective analysis of 171,527 notified births (1989-1991) and subsequent infant survival at one year, from community child health records.
Setting: Notifications from maternity units in the North East Thames Region, London.
Main outcome measures: The incidence of births, stillbirths, neonatal and post-neonatal deaths at each gestation after 28 completed weeks. Mortality rates per 1000 total or live births and per 1000 ongoing pregnancies at each gestation were calculated.
Results: The rates of stillbirth at term (2.3 per 1000 total births) and post-term (1.9 per 1000 total births) were similar. When calculated per 1000 ongoing pregnancies, the rate of stillbirth increased six-fold from 0.35 per 1000 ongoing pregnancies at 37 weeks to 2.12 per 1000 ongoing pregnancies at 43 weeks of gestation. Neonatal and post-neonatal mortality rates fell significantly with advancing gestation, from 151.4 and 31.7 per 1000 live births at 28 weeks, to reach a nadir at 41 weeks of gestation (0.7 and 1.3 per 1000 live births, respectively), increasing thereafter in prolonged gestation to 1.6 and 2.1 per 1000 live births at 43 weeks of gestation. When calculated per 1000 ongoing pregnancies, the overall risk of pregnancy loss (stillbirth + infant mortality) increased eight-fold from 0.7 per 1000 ongoing pregnancies at 37 weeks to 5.8 per 1000 ongoing pregnancies at 43 weeks of gestation.
Conclusion: The risks of prolonged gestation on pregnancy are better reflected by calculating fetal and infant losses per 1000 ongoing pregnancies. There is a significant increase in the risk of stillbirth, neonatal and post-neonatal mortality in prolonged pregnancy. This study provides accurate data on gestation-specific risks of pregnancy loss, enabling pregnant women and their carers to judge the appropriateness of obstetric intervention.