There was no rise in the stillbirth risk in the US in 2021

10 April 2024
What was claimed

The US stillbirth rate rose five-fold after 2020.

Our verdict

Incorrect. The US stillbirth rate fell slightly, from 5.74 per 1,000 in 2020 to 5.73 in 2021.

A man in a video clip being widely shared on Instagram and X (formerly Twitter) suggests that the US stillbirth rate rose five-fold after the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines in 2021.

This is not true. The US stillbirth rate actually fell very slightly in 2021, compared with 2020, to the second-lowest level on record since 1990.

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Where does the video come from?

The clip shows a man called Dr James Thorp being interviewed as part of a film called Shot Dead [36:08]. Many versions carry a watermark suggesting that it came from an Instagram post from the JustThink podcast.

The clip shows a chart while Dr Thorp describes what he claims is the risk of stillbirth in the US. He says: “Then [after 2020] the vaccines roll out and it goes up to 29.3 foetal deaths per 1,000. That’s a five-fold increase. There is a five-fold increase in [the] stillbirth rate.”

The chart comes from a paper written by Dr Thorp and others, which shows data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on stillbirths per 1,000 deliveries between 2017 and 2020, followed by a rate taken from two months’ data that allegedly comes from a single clinic in California. This is the rate of 29.3 that Dr Thorp quotes in the video.

The paper and the longer film make it clearer that the data is based on a very small sample.

Why it’s wrong

Two months of unofficial data from a single clinic is obviously not a reliable basis on which to estimate the rate for the whole of the US.

In the film, but not in the clip being shared online, Dr Thorp says that the official 2021 data has not been published, which may have been true at the time that he was speaking. The data was published by the CDC in July 2023, however, and was available by the time many of the clips were being shared online.

And in fact it shows that the US stillbirth rate fell very slightly from 5.74 per 1,000 in 2020 to 5.73 per 1,000 in 2021. So not only was there not a five-fold rise in the rate, there was no rise at all.

Full Fact emailed Dr Thorp, the producers of Shot Dead and the JustThink podcast, who at the time of writing have not responded. We also emailed the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, which published Dr Thorp’s paper. It agreed that the rate Dr Thorp cited came from a single clinic.

We have written several articles in the past debunking misleading claims about Covid vaccines and supposed problems with fertility or pregnancy.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that research into Covid vaccines in pregnancy has not identified “any pattern to suggest the COVID-19 vaccines used in the UK, or any reactions to these vaccines, increase the risk of miscarriage or stillbirth”.

The NHS says that getting vaccinated against Covid reduces the risk of stillbirth.

The CDC says: “COVID-19 vaccines are not associated with fertility problems in women or men.” It adds: “The benefits of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine outweigh any potential risks of vaccination during pregnancy.”

Image courtesy of Luise and Nic

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