boost in funding for stillbirth research


“Rates of perinatal death have remained relatively constant since 1997,” Dr Al-Yaman said.

Professor Vicki Flenady, from the University of Queensland’s Centre of Research Excellence in Stillbirth, said stillbirths make up the majority of perinatal deaths, and it’s those rates that remained unchanged.

“There’s been a lack of real focus on these deaths, and a lack of appreciation of the fact that they are highly preventable,” Professor Flenady said.

“I think it’s driven by the fact that stillbirth is such a tragedy and it’s really hard to talk about, it’s often a hidden tragedy and what’s not seen can’t be fixed.”

The Centre of Research Excellence in Stillbirth has received $3 million of the government’s funding to help nationalise a project that aims to reduce the rate of stillbirth after 28 weeks of gestation.

Professor Flenady said she is confident the Australian Safe Baby Bundle project will reduce the rate by 20 per cent, in line with similar projects in the UK.

“We’re looking at the potential of saving 2-300 babies lives every year if we get this implemented across these jurisdictions,” she said.

The project, which helps healthcare providers and mothers pick up on risk factors including slow baby growth and decreased fetal movement, will be spread from NSW, Victoria and Queensland to include the other states and territories, as well as rural and remote parts of Australia.

Mr Hunt said reducing the rate of stillbirth was a “health and wellbeing priority”.

“We understand the importance of this issue not only for the women affected, but for their partners, families and the broader community,” he said in a statement.

Almost 30 per cent of all stillbirth deaths were caused by congenital anomaly according to the AIHW report – however, the report said that data is complicated by the fact a proportion of those deaths were due to pregnancy terminations, including for some non-fatal abnormalities.

The second-highest cause of stillbirth, at 19.6 per cent, is unexplained death.

“The group of deaths that are really truly unexplained are a real puzzle at the moment, and there we need focused attention on the research to really understand the mechanisms to be able to intervene and reduce the risk to those women,” Professor Flenady said.

Kate Lynch, chief executive of the Stillbirth Foundation Australia, said while further medical research was needed there were things people could do to reduce the risks.

“Our advice to pregnant women is that they should go to sleep on their side from 28 weeks of pregnancy onwards, and pregnant mothers should seek immediate healthcare professional advice if they notice changes in their baby’s movements,” she said.

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