December 13, 2005

Stillbirths More Common in Older and Black Women

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Women older than 35 years and black women are more likely than other women to experience stillbirth, according to a report in the American Journal of Public Health.

Previous studies have found disparities in stillbirth rates between black and white women and between older and younger women, the authors explain, but these studies have not investigated how stillbirth rate differences vary across generations.

Dr. Cande V. Ananth from UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, New Jersey and colleagues analyzed the trends in stillbirths among black and white women in the United States between 1981 and 2000.

Stillbirth rates declined by 33 percent among blacks and by 46 percent among whites during the study interval, the authors report, but stillbirth rates were still twice as high among black women (6.6 per 1000 births) as among white women (3.2 per 1000 births).

In contrast, the report indicates, stillbirth rates appeared to increase during this period for extremes of maternal age (younger than 20 years and 35 years or older), regardless of race. Maternal age also had a greater influence on stillbirth rates among black women than among white women, the researchers note.

"Efforts to better understand the biological mechanisms of the aging process that are associated with stillbirth risk may be beneficial," the authors conclude. "Targeting advanced maternal age to decrease stillbirths may prove beneficial."

SOURCE: American Journal of Public Health, December 2005.