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Lancet series on stillbirths launched

Date: 14 April 2011
Source: The Lancet
The Lancet Series on stillbirths highlights the rates and causes of stillbirth globally, explores cost-effective interventions to prevent stillbirths (as well as maternal and neonatal deaths), and sets key actions to halve stillbirth rates by 2020.

Also included in the series are Comments from professional organisations and parent groups, the latter demonstrating the unique tragedy for families of the birth of a baby bearing no signs of life.

Around 2.6 million stillbirths (the death of a baby at 28 weeks' gestation or more) occur each year. Although 98% of these deaths take place in low-income and middle-income countries, stillbirths also continue to affect wealthier nations, with around 1 in every 300 babies stillborn in high-income countries.

While the number of stillbirths globally has fallen from an estimated three million in 1995, the decline lags behind progress reducing deaths in children under five. There is a lack of recognition of the issue at a global health level.

An estimated 1.2 million stillbirths happen during labour and delivery, highlighting the need to increase skilled attendance at birth. Other recommendended interventions include: improved emergency obstetric care; provision of basic information and service access to women; improved family planning; and ensuring health workers have skills, knowledge and resources. Other measures include the provision of folic acid supplements, supplying insecticide-treated nets in malaria-endemic areas and routine syphilis screening during antenatal visits.

There is a dearth of data on stillbirths. Improved mechanisms are needed to monitor stillbirths and better understand their causes.

It is hoped that this series will promote further work in this area, which RHM would also be interested in publishing.