The Lancet releases Stillbirth Series
Every day more than 7,300 babies are stillborn; 2.6 million such stillbirths occurred worldwide in 2009, according to the first comprehensive set of estimates published in a special series (April 14, 2011) in The Lancet medical journal. The new estimates show that the number of stillbirths worldwide has declined by only 1.1% per year since 1995. This is even slower than reductions for both maternal and child mortality during the same 15-year period.
Although millions of families experience stillbirth (deaths at 28 weeks’ gestation or later), these deaths often go unreported, uncounted, and unsupported, with the solutions under-researched. “Almost no burden affecting families is so big and yet so invisible in society,” notes the international Partnership for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health. The five main causes of stillbirth are childbirth complications, maternal infections in pregnancy, maternal disorders (especially hypertension and diabetes), fetal growth restriction, and congenital abnormalities. If all causes of stillbirth were taken together, notes the Stillbirths Series, the new estimates would place stillbirths fifth on the list of causes of death worldwide. Approximately 98% of stillbirths occur in low- and middle-income countries, most in rural areas; yet high-income countries are not immune, with around 1 in every 300 babies stillborn. Almost half of all stillbirths (1.2 million) occur during labor and delivery, and most of these are term babies that could be saved with access to quality care at birth.
The Stillbirths Series, authored by 69 experts from more than 50 organizations in 18 countries, comprises six scientific papers, two research articles, and a set of eight linked comments. The Series presents 10 key interventions that could substantially reduce the number of stillbirths worldwide, and identifies priority research themes and actions for low- and middle-income countries and for high-income countries.