Compilers of a research series titled as “Ending Preventable Stillbirth,” published in The Lancet, have observed with concern that despite significant reductions in the number of maternal and child deaths, there has been little change in the number of stillbirths.
This was cited to be more prominent in the third trimester of pregnancy, even though the majority were preventable. The research series, comprising five papers, developed by 216 experts from more than 100 organisations in 43 countries revealed that despite knowledge and advocacy over the last many years, stillbirths, especially those that occur during the process of childbirth, remain a huge global challenge.
It largely remains an unrecognized public health issue. regretted the researchers including Professor Zulfiqar A Bhutta, Founding Director, Centre for Excellence in Women and Child Health, Aga Khan University and Co-Director, SickKids Centre for Global Child Health in Toronto, Canada. Dr. Bhutta, along with Arjumand Rizvi, senior instructor and data analyst, AKU in Pakistan is among the authors of the first, third and fifth papers of the research work.
Professor Marleen Temmerman, Chair, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Director, Women’s Health and Research, AKU in East Africa and Dr Jai K Das have also significantly contributed to the work.
These papers build on AKU’s efforts in 2011 and 2014 on highlighting the importance of prevention and integration of maternal and newborn health services. The papers highlight the huge burden of morbidity and grief associated with stillbirths and also provide a template of solutions that can end this preventable tragedy within our lifetime, said Professor Bhutta.
As per research 10 countries account for two-thirds of stillbirths with India having the highest number, estimated at 592,100 in 2015. The highest rates are in Pakistan (43.1 per 1,000 total births) and in Nigeria (42.9). The lowest rates are in Iceland (1.3), Denmark (1.7), Finland (1.7) and the Netherlands (1.8).
Netherlands is also making the fastest progress, reducing stillbirths by 6.8 per cent per year. The United States is one of the slowest progressing countries with a reduction of 0.4 per cent per year. The report indicates that there has been no decline in the rates of stillbirth delivery in Kenya, which is currently estimated at 22/1,000 against an average estimate of 2-3/1,000 in Europe.