A new study published in The Lancet suggests that Australia lags behind other developed nations in tackling the stillborn baby rate. The study also shows that women in low-income countries are twice as likely to deliver a stillborn baby as those in richer nations.
The study showed overall that more that 98 per cent of all stillbirths occurred in low to middle-income countries, with an estimated 2.6 million third trimester stillbirths occurring in 2015. The countries with the highest stillbirth rates were in sub-Saharan Africa.
Associate Professor Vicki Flenady from the Mater Research Institute at the University of Queensland, one of the study’s authors, said there were a number of factors that contributed to a higher risk of stillbirth delivery.
“The biggest factor is the lack of access to emergency obstetric care for women in labour, so when something goes wrong, to be able to deliver that baby by caesarean section quickly,” Professor Flenady said. “Other factors include post-term pregnancy, going greater than 42 weeks, maternal hypertension, overweight and obesity and maternal infection.”
Researchers found that Australia’s stillbirth rates were significantly higher than other developed countries.
“Our late gestation stillbirth rate, we rank 16th among the developed countries — we’re not doing as well as we should,” Professor Flenady said. “It’s double that of the best performing country.”
Professor Flenady indicated that there were a number of ways Australia could improve in this area.
“I think one of the factors is we don’t have a plan for how we address stillbirth in this country,” she said. “We haven’t implemented approaches to ensuring each case of stillbirth is examined fully and in-depth to learn from that case, to put in place clinical place intervention so it doesn’t happen again.”
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