Scientists found women who have had their appendix or tonsils removed are more likely to get pregnant and also become pregnant quicker, than the general population / Getty Images

UK's stillbirth rate has only fallen by 1.8 per cent since 2000 - compared to a 3.5 per cent drop in Poland

There are more stillbirths per head in the UK every year than in Poland, Croatia and Estonia. 

The figures, which will be published by the Office for National Statistics later this year, show there were 3,564 stillbirths in the UK in 2014 - and the stillbirth rate of 4.6 per 1,000 births has barely fallen in recent years. 

The data was released early to the Sunday Times by the stillbirth and neonatal death charity Sands to highlight the agony still suffered by thousands of parents every year. 

A separate study in medical journal The Lancet found that Poland, Croatia and Estonia now have lower rates of stillbirth than Britain. 

In addition, the annual rate in stillbirths has fallen just 1.8 per cent since 2000 - compared with 6.8 per cent in the Netherlands and 3.5 per cent in Poland. 

The Royal College of Midwives said there were a “critical” shortage of 2,600 midwives in England. 

It said a survey had found more than two-fifths of maternity units were forced to close temporarily on at least one occasion because they could not cope with demand. 

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said there were still very few hospitals that had an obstetrician or consultant present 24 hours a day despite a declaration it made in 2007 to have them in all hospitals by 2010. 

One parent, Zoe Andrews, whose daughter Evie was stillborn in July 2011 after midwives failed to monitor her heartbeat properly, told the Sunday Times: “It still haunts me to this day, seeing nurses hold and clean my daughter in a bucket after she was delivered.”

Charlotte Bevan, of Sands, said: “Our progress is way behind countries like the Netherlands, who are moving four times faster than we are to save lives. 

“It’s devastating for families not just to think that their child might have lived if only they’d received the right care, but also to know that another child tomorrow will die in similar circumstances because units aren’t implementing guidance.”