May 7, 2009

Stillbirths hit 3.2 million worldwide

An estimated 3.2 million stillbirths occur worldwide each year, with 98 percent occurring in low- to middle-income countries, U.S. researchers said.

The global burden of intrapartum stillbirths -- stillbirths that happen during labor -- is around 1 million, again mostly in low- and middle-income countries. However, the investment and attention given to tackling stillbirths is low, the researchers said.

A supplement published in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth provides an in-depth analysis of the burden and evidence base for potential interventions to avert stillbirths, especially in low-income countries.

This research initiative was led by Zulfiqar A. Bhutta of the Aga Khan University, Dr. Gary L. Darmstadt, Dr. Rachel Haws of Johns Hopkins University and Dr. Joy E. Lawn of Save the Children.

In low-income countries the numbers are overwhelming at around 9,000 a day with 3,000 a day occurring during birth -- yet behind each death families suffer the pain of loss, often compounded with guilt, but societal taboos keep this grief hidden, Lawn said in a statement. Studies show that even 20 years after experiencing a stillbirth, women have unresolved grief.