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An international study of stillbirth rates in high-income countries, led by Professor Vicki Flenady from Mater Research and the University of Queensland, has found that women from lower socio-economic families face twice the risk of delivering a stillborn baby than their wealthier counterparts.

Professor Flenady said that many stillbirths in disadvantaged families could have been prevented.

“We know that disadvantaged women are less likely to receive adequate antenatal care, yet this is vital to allow the early identification of factors which might contribute to a baby being stillborn,” she said.
Half of the world’s stillbirths—around 1.3 million births—occur during labour and birth, mainly due to inadequate care from the delivery environment.
The stillbirth study has found that high-income countries could reduce the rate of stillbirths by introducing national audits for perinatal death and by funding more research to improve understanding of the causes of stillbirth.

Professor Flenady’s research shows that while stillbirth is more prevalent in low and middle income countries, it is still a major health burden in high income countries across the world.

Australia’s stillbirth rates are significantly higher than the best-performing developed countries in the world, including the Netherlands, which has reduced its rates since the year 2000.

“Future research is needed to understand the causes of stillbirth, how to predict those most at risk, and to develop effective strategies to reduce obesity and smoking in lower socio-economic families which can affect both the mother and baby,” she said.
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