Advising with empathy and experience

Mother urges law change so son's stillborn death can be investigated.


A woman whose son was stillborn wants to change the law so an inquest can investigate how he died.

Katie Wood's son Oscar was stillborn on 29 March 2015, but the law in England and Wales, does not allow inquests for stillborn babies.

The government launched a consultation on the issue in March 2019, but the findings have still not been published.

The UK government says it will explain its response but a delay in doing so was has been criticised by the House of Commons justice committee.

Ms Wood’s pregnancy had not given any serious cause for concern but she and her family say that have never received satisfactory answers about why the baby boy died.

Katie Wood, of Chepstow, Monmouthshire, said:  “I'd had a miscarriage before I found out that I was pregnant with Oscar. We were really excited to be adding to our family. It was quite a difficult pregnancy. It felt very long. A lot of people used to ask me if I was having twins because I was so big."

Four weeks before he was due, a scan showed Oscar had grown considerably in a short space of time, but no significant concerns were raised about his health.

On the day of her labour, Katie and her husband Samuel went to Royal Gwent Hospital, Newport.

In the hours before Oscar's birth, there was little indication of what was to come.

Katie Wood said: "Everything seemed fine. I got sent to triage where they put a CTG monitor on me. I could hear my son's heartbeat from the monitor."

She was moved to the labour ward when a scan showed Oscar was in the pelvic area but this was when things started to go wrong.

She said: "I was trying really hard to push, and I remember saying to them he was stuck. This went on for a little while and eventually they just had to pull Oscar out and take him to the resuscitation table. They tried for about 18 minutes to bring my son back but at that point it was too late. He was gone.

"You hear his heartbeat and then the next thing you know, you've got nothing. You've got a dead baby in your arms."

An investigation by the Aneurin Bevan health board found several failings in Katie's care.

A post-mortem examination suggested a condition known as shoulder dystocia, where the baby's shoulder becomes stuck during birth, may have contributed, but this is rarely fatal.

The health board said it conducted a serious incident investigation into Oscar's death and added: "Whilst we seek to find answers during any investigation, in some cases, a full understanding around the cause of death may not always be achieved and we accept the unavoidable distress this may pose for families."

The Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity (Sands) welcomed calls for reform in inquests for stillborn babies, describing the current system of investigation when a baby dies as "wholly inadequate.”

The charity said inquests into stillbirths should be held only at the request of the baby's parents.

As of 2020, the proportion of stillbirths in Wales stood at 3.6 per 1,000 births.

Katie Wood is still hopeful a coroner may one day be able to investigate the circumstances surrounding Oscar's death and is petitioning the UK government to change the law.

She said: "As a mother you have all these questions. For closure, for my family, and me, I just want the truth.

"I can't have that because he was stillborn. If he had taken a breath, this would be a very different situation. It's about getting the answers as to why my son died and what I can do to help other people from having to go through the same thing as we did."

The Welsh government said: "In Wales we review the circumstances and care leading up to, and surrounding, each stillbirth. Parents' input into this is vital. We are also working with the Ministry of Justice on the consultation on changing the law on inquests for stillbirths."