RCOG statement on the Lancet series on stillbirths

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) welcomes the Lancet’s new series on stillbirths which looks at the latest figures from around the world.

The series shows that around 2.6 million stillbirths occur worldwide each year during the third trimester of pregnancy. It focuses on low-income and middle-income countries, where 98% of all stillbirths occur.

The series also looks at high income countries. Rates in the UK and the USA have decreased by 1% per year for the past 15 years and stillbirths now account for two-thirds of perinatal deaths in the UK.

The series concludes with a vision for 2020, including a target for all countries with a current stillbirth rate less than 5 per 1000 to eliminate all preventable stillbirths and for all countries with a rate over 5 to reduce their stillbirth burden by at least 50%.

The recent CMACE report on perinatal mortality showed that since 2000, stillbirth and neonatal mortality rates in the UK have shown a downward trend. The stillbirth rate decreased from 5.4 per 1,000 total births in 2000, to 5.2 per 1,000 total births in 2009.

However, the report also showed that in 2009, 10% of mothers who had a stillbirth or whose babies died in the neonatal period had a BMI of 35 or more.

Dr Tony Falconer, President of the RCOG said:

“This series and the latest CMACE report both highlight the link between stillbirth and maternal obesity. The rise in obesity is a serious issue and women need to be encouraged to lead a healthy lifestyle before conception to ensure the best outcome for them and their baby.

“The other known associated factors for stillbirths include increasing maternal age, ethnicity, congenital anomalies and placental conditions, however, a significant number are unexplained.  Although we have good information about the social demographics of stillbirth, we need to know more about the pathology of stillbirth and more research in this area is needed.  

“The 50% fall by 2020 target proposed by the authors is ambitious and to achieve this, more needs to be done to raise awareness amongst women and clinicians about the possible causes. Medical problems need to be identified as soon as possible so that appropriate care can be provided.”

Thursday 14 April 2011 

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For more information please contact Naomi Weston on 020 7772 6357 or nweston@rcog.org.uk 

Notes

To access the Series please visit: www.thelancet.com/series/stillbirth

Definition of a stillbirth: In the UK stillbirth is defined as any baby born dead after 24 weeks gestation. Other countries use different definitions, ranging from 20 to 28 weeks gestation. To allow comparison between countries the Lancet series has used data from 28+ weeks gestation. Hence the difference between the 2009 stillbirth rate used in the UK of 5.2 per 1000 live births, and 3.5 per 1000 live births stated in the Lancet Series.

Date published: 14/04/2011
Published by: Naomi Weston

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