Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Long-term trends in fetal mortality: implications for developing countries

Robert Woods

This paper discusses the problems of defining and measuring late-fetal mortality (stillbirths). It uses evidence from 11 developed countries to trace long-term trends in fetal mortality. Issues associated with varying definitions and registration practices are identified, as well as the range of possible rates, key turning points and recent convergence. The implications for developing countries are spelt out. They emphasize the possible limitations of WHO estimation methods and survey-based data by examining the cross-sectional associations among 187 countries in the year 2000. The important role of skilled birth attendants is emphasized in both data sets, but the different effects on maternal mortality and late-fetal mortality are also noted.

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