Babies may be dying because many doctors do not realise black and Asian women have shorter pregnancies than whites, experts claimed yesterday.
Stillbirths, or infant death during or shortly after delivery, was highest among Indian and Pakistani women, a study of 197,000 births found.
The rate is also higher among black women than whites, it showed.
Now researchers are calling for overdue south Asian and black babies to be induced a week earlier in the pregnancy than white babies to cut the number of deaths.
Women in different racial groups have slightly different lengths of pregnancy, the researchers said.
Doctors will normally induce a birth if a baby is late arriving—usually after 41 weeks. But this may be too late for some black and Asian newborns, said Dr Imelda Balchin, who led a 12-year study in London and Bristol.
She added: ‘The racial classification, although crude, is a probable indicator of the genetic variation in normal gestational length.
‘Whether differences in outcome were due to social disadvantage or biology, the implications for management are the same.’
Dr Balchin, from the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, also called for doctors to screen expectant Asian and black mothers earlier.
The World Health Organisation says a baby is late if it is not born 41 weeks after its mother has her last period.
‘The WHO definition incorporates inaccuracies in assessing gestational age at birth,’ Dr Balchin added.
‘Our results suggest monitoring from 40 rather than 41 weeks in South Asian and black women is justified.’