Half of global stillbirths preventable
Thu, 14 Apr 2011 12:00:39 GMT
About 2.6 million stillbirths occur every year in the world, mostly in developing countries, while half of the cases could be prevented by providing better health care for the mothers.
According to a series on stillbirth, published in The Lancet, more than 7, 200 babies are born dead every day.
A stillbirth occurs when a baby is born dead of natural causes after 28 weeks of pregnancy, according to the World Health Organization.
About 98 percent of the 2.6 million annual stillbirths occurred in low and middle-income countries.
The series 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.
The report also includes comments from professional organizations and parent groups, the latter demonstrating the tragedy for the families in which the stillbirth occurred.
The data indicates that the number of stillbirths worldwide has declined by only 1.1 percent per year, from 3 million in 1995 to 2.6 million in 2009. The global stillbirth rate, in turn, has reduced from 22 stillbirths per 1,000 to 19.
Nearly one-fourth of all stillborn babies worldwide are from India, the highest for any nation.
"Though India has made some progress, what worries me most are the intra-partum deaths [a child being alive all through the nine months inside a mother's womb but dying during childbirth]. Around 50 percent of stillbirths are such cases, which is unacceptable," said Dr Monir Islam, WHO South-East Asia director on family health.
WHO says one in every two stillbirths in developing countries occurs during birth. Worldwide, 1.2 million babies die during delivery and most of these are term babies who should survive if born alive and whose deaths are often associated with lack of obstetric care.
The findings also show that the UK has the highest rate of stillbirths among high-income countries. Britain, which ranks 33rd in the global list, down from 26th in 1995, decreased the rate by 3.5 percent between 2000 and 2009.
The research founded by parties such as Save the Children, the WHO, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation emphasized that half of the global stillbirth cases could be prevented if mothers had better medical care.
It is estimated that 29 percent of stillbirths are caused by problems with the placenta, which can affect the growth of the fetus. About 12 percent are associated with infections, 9 percent with umbilical cord problems and 6 percent with congenital abnormalities. However, the cause of 30 percent of stillbirths remains unknown.
Smoking and drinking during pregnancy, being overweight, having children later in life, previous caesarean sections, and multiple births are among factors linked to higher risk of stillbirth.