Stillbirth Series in The Lancet

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The Lancet launched a new series yesterday focusing on stillbirths, holding events in London, New York, Hobart (Australia), Geneva, New Delhi, Florence, and Cape Town. We attended the event yesterday at UNICEF which featured:

  • Maja Zecevik (Editor, The Lancet North America)
  • Dr Lale Say (Dept of Reproductive Health and Research, WHO)
  • Tomasine Bogle (A parent who has experienced stillbirth)
  • Dr Robert Goldenberg (NICHD / Drexel University)
  • Purnima Mane (UNFPA)

Stillbirth is an issue that is largely in the shadows and not often discussed in public health or even between doctors and patients. According to The Lancet:

Around 2.6 million stillbirths (the death of a baby at 28 weeks’ gestation or more) occur each year. Although 98% of these deaths take place in low-income and middle-income countries, stillbirths also continue to affect wealthier nations, with around 1 in every 300 babies stillborn in high-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. Also included are Comments from professional organisations and parent groups, the latter demonstrating the unique tragedy for families of the birth of a baby bearing no signs of life.

The Series features 6 papers, 2 research articles, a number of comments, videos and other multimedia. Given the wealth of resources available, it is worth the time of any person working in maternal and child health.

Sarah Boseley of the UK Guardian writes:

The Lancet series on stillbirths is a breakthrough in a field that has been hampered by wrong assumptions and prejudice and a lack of energy to tackle the issue. For the first time, these dead babies are being counted – in every sense. Joy Lawn from Save the Children in Cape Town, South Africa, and colleagues have made herculean efforts to estimate the numbers. They have collected information from over 1000 databases and concluded that there are at least 2.6 million stillbirths every year – 98% in the developing world but a troublingly large number in rich countries too. And there are things that can be done. The same interventions now being promoted to save the lives of women in childbirth and babies born alive – the subject of Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 – can help prevent babies dying in the final weeks of pregnancy and during birth.