Every year in Australia, thousands of parents suffer the loss of a stillborn baby. Yet, most are given no answers as to why their baby has died.
Mater Research Institute-University of Queensland researchers undertook a global review of stillbirth reporting and classification, hoping to find ways to improve procedures.
Dr Hanna Reinebrant from UQ’s Centre of Research Excellence in Stillbirth said the study found stillbirths were most commonly categorised as ”unexplained”, ”other” and ”haemorrhage”.
Dr Hanna Reinebrant (pictured) from UQ’s Centre of Research Excellence in Stillbirth is calling on the Australian Government to establish national guidelines for investigating stillbirths
‘It is really important to understand the cause of each stillbirth,’ Dr Reinebrant told FEMAIL.
‘It is important for families to understand ”what went wrong”, for families and clinicians to assist in planning and caring for future pregnancies in the same family, and also to develop new ways to detect babies at risk of stillbirth and strategies to prevent stillbirths.’
She said that the Australian Government should establish national guidelines for investigating stillbirths.
‘It’s important to establish a cause of death to help parents understand what went wrong and to guide clinical care for any future pregnancies,’ Dr Reinebrant explained.
The study by Queensland researchers found that stillbirths were most commonly categorised as ”unexplained”, ”other” and ”haemorrhage” (stock image)
‘It would also help in developing prevention and education programs for women.’
Researchers reviewed 85 reports on stillbirths across 50 countries and found wide variations in investigation and classification systems, with only 13 considered ”good quality”.
Stillbirths were defined as the loss of a baby at 28 weeks’ gestation or more.
‘Placental problems are frequently reported across middle and high-income countries, but we found that in low-income countries, labour complications and infection were most common,’ Dr Reinebrant said.
The World Health Organisation has set a global target of 12 stillbirths or fewer per 1000 births by 2030, but Dr Reinebrant said even high-income countries needed to reduce their stillbirth rates.
Australia ranked poorly in reducing its stillbirth rate over the past 15 years (stock image)
Although, Australia has the 15th lowest rate in the world, with 2.7 stillbirths for every 1000 births, behind countries like Iceland (1.3), Finland (1.8), Japan (2.1) and New Zealand (2.3), it ranked poorly in reducing its stillbirth rate over the past 15 years.
‘We urgently need to address the reporting and categorising of stillbirths so we can better understand what causes stillbirths and improve outcomes for families,’ Dr Reinebrant said.
Currently in Australia, the protocol for investigating stillbirths is to follow the Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand (PSANZ) Clinical Practice Guideline for Perinatal Mortality.
These guidelines list the obstetric history, tests (such as blood tests, ultrasound and amniotic fluid), placental and baby examinations, and follow-up tests following a stillbirth.
Stillbirth Foundation Australia General Manager, Victoria Bowring, (pictured) said the government should step up to promote education campaigns and invest in further research
However Dr Reinebrant said that the majority of stillbirths only receive some of these tests.
‘If some of the crucial information has not been collected, it can be very problematic to determine the correct cause of death,’ she said.
‘We believe if these guidelines were followed to a higher degree, with more information available to accurately determine the cause of stillbirth, we might see a reduction in “unexplained” stillbirths.’
Stillbirth Foundation Australia General Manager, Victoria Bowring, called it a ”national crisis” and said the government should step up to promote education campaigns and invest in further research.
‘Researchers are doing important work in this area, but we need more funding from governments to progress this further and drive down the stillbirth rate,’ she explained.