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Stillbirth rates disturbingly high

Posted:  Thursday, March 17, 2016

Stillbirth rates not yet down, finds new research

Recent stillbirth figures cause alarm

The scourge of stillbirth still ravages the world! The stillbirth rates remain alarmingly high despite interventions on a global scale. A recent issue of The Lancet put the spotlight on the problem of stillbirths through a series of articles.

A stillbirth is defined as the death of a baby in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy. British researchers have reported that more than 2.6 million stillbirths occur worldwide annually, which is estimated to be 7200 stillbirths daily. However, about half of the stillbirths occur during the birth process.

The articles underscored the fact that many causes of stillbirth like malaria, syphilis, and poor maternal care are preventable. In fact, better quality of care and the early identification of high-risk pregnancies can avert nearly half the deaths that occur during delivery.

Lamenting this fact, the researchers said, “The idea of a child being alive at the beginning of labour and dying for entirely preventable reasons during the next few hours should be a health scandal of international proportion." They recommend a systematic strategy for identifying the causes of stillbirth to combat the problem.

While sub-Saharan Africa has the highest stillbirth rates, developed countries with significant socioeconomic disparity such as Iceland and Ukraine continue to battle the problem. Women of poor socioeconomic status in the aforementioned countries have almost double the risk of stillbirth than more financially secure women.

Moreover, women of south Asian and African origin who give birth in Europe or Australia have much higher stillbirth rates than white women. However, the reports are not all dismal. A few countries like Netherlands, Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Rwanda had made progress in reducing stillbirths. The rates of maternal deaths, newborn deaths, and deaths among children younger than 5 years have also witnessed a decline.

However, the toll of stillbirth on parents and families is often unaddressed. Up to 70% of grieving mothers in high-income countries show significant symptoms after their baby's death, which may persist for at least 4 years. Moreover, there is a stigma associated with stillbirth in low- and middle-income countries.

The researchers have called for a number of remedial measures to prevent stillbirths. These include education, improved access to health care, better maternal care, and poverty reduction. Improving the body weight during pregnancy is important for enhancing outcomes and long-term health.

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