LANCET, PMNCH & partners: Stillbirth burden high and invisible
14 APRIL 2011 | LONDON, GENEVA - Some 2.6 million third trimester stillbirths occur worldwide every year according to the first comprehensive set of estimates published in a special series in The Lancet which was authored by 69 experts from more than 50 organizations including PMNCH. The estimates show that 98 percent of stillbirths occur in low and middle-income countries and the number of stillbirths worldwide has declined by only 1.1 percent per year --slower than reductions for child and maternal mortality. “Stillbirths need to be an integral part of the maternal, newborn and child health agenda,” says Dr Carole Presern, Director PMNCH and a midwife.
Almost half of all stillbirths, 1.2 million, happen when the woman is in labour. Two-thirds happen in rural areas, where skilled birth attendants ─ in particular midwives and physicians ─ are not always available for essential care during childbirth and for obstetric emergencies, including caesarean sections. The Series shows that the way to address the problem of stillbirth is to strengthen existing maternal, newborn, and child health programmes by focusing on key interventions, which also have benefits for mothers and newborns. Authors of The Lancet’s Stillbirths Series call for action to reach these goals by 2020:
- For countries with a stillbirth rate of more than 5 per 1,000 births, at least a 50 percent reduction from the current rate;
- For those nations with a current rate of under 5 per 1,000, to eliminate all preventable stillbirths and close equity gaps.
The Lancet Series
The Lancet’s Stillbirths Series, authored by 69 experts from more than 50 organizations in 18 countries including The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH) is comprised of six scientific papers, two research articles, and eight linked comments.
PMNCH Knowledge Summary: Make stillbirths count
From the new estimates and trends, PMNCH has produced a PMNCH Stillbirth Knowledge Summary—part of the PMNCH Knowledge Summary series which synthesize the scientific evidence in a short, user-friendly format to inform policy and practice.
WHO Policy Brief: Stillbirths
The findings have a number of policy implications, particularly in countries where women have less access to good-quality reproductive health care including pregnancy and childbirth care. WHO has produced a Policy brief to accompanying The Lancet Stillbirth series.