True burden of stillbirths in Europe vastly underestimated

October 2, 2018, City University London
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

The burden of stillbirth has been underestimated by at least a third because of recommendations to report only stillbirths from 28 weeks' gestation in international comparisons, according to an observational study of 2.5 million babies in 19 European countries published in The Lancet.

The findings underscore the importance of accurate and consistent reporting of as early as 22 weeks so that the true burden of can be understood and the impact on families acknowledged. At an international level, the World Health Organisation (WHO) sets a threshold of 28 weeks of pregnancy for identifying stillbirths.

The lead author of the study, Dr. Lucy Smith from the University of Leicester said:

"There are major and serious gaps in our knowledge of the burden of stillbirth which will have significant unforeseen impacts on families. To a mother or father, a second trimester stillbirth is no less tragic than a stillbirth at 28 weeks of pregnancy or later. These parents also deserve recognition of their loss and accurate reporting of their child's death to improve care and policy."

Alison Macfarlane, Professor of Perinatal Health at City has been a member of Euro-Peristat since it was founded and is a co-author of The Lancet paper.

The authors used data compiled by Euro-Peristat from 19 European countries on pregnancy outcomes from 22 weeks of gestation between 2004 and 2015, to calculate overall rates of stillbirth and changes in rates between 2004 and 2015 by gestational age and country.

The authors concluded that a threshold of 24 weeks should be used for international comparisons of stillbirths and that reporting at 22 and 23 weeks should be improved in the countries where it is incomplete.

Euro-Peristat data

To do these analyses, Dr. Smith was able to draw on data which the Euro-Peristat collaboration has been compiling since the beginning of the century. Her analysis is being published ahead of a new Euro-Peristat report on data for 2015 which is due to be published towards the end of November.

City's Professor Alison Macfarlane is UK representative on the Euro-Peristat Scientific Committee and a member of its Executive Board. She commented:

"This important article shows the value of the work done by the many members of the Euro-Peristat international collaboration over the years. It has provided the resource needed for this new analysis drawing on data compiled for a series of reports."

Explore further: Lack of consensus over best obstetric practice in EU, says report

More information: Lucy K Smith et al. Quantifying the burden of stillbirths before 28 weeks of completed gestational age in high-income countries: a population-based study of 19 European countries, The Lancet (2018). DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31651-9

Related Stories

Lack of consensus over best obstetric practice in EU, says report

March 10, 2015
Caesarean section rates vary widely across Europe with percentages of women giving birth by caesarean ranging from a high of 52% in Cyprus to a low of 14.8% in Iceland. This compares with around a quarter of births in the ...

Stillbirth is not just stillbirth—more information is needed

December 4, 2017
Forty two babies are stillborn in Australia every week, and 60 per cent of them are recorded as "unexplained".

Almost one in four stillbirths potentially preventable

January 19, 2018
(HealthDay)—Almost one in four stillbirths are potentially preventable, according to a study published online Jan. 9 in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Report on stillbirth and neonatal death rates across the UK

June 22, 2017
Research published today shows that the stillbirth rate in the UK has reduced by almost 8% over the period 2013 to 2015. A current Government ambition is to halve the rates of stillbirth and neonatal death in England by 2030. ...

Stillbirth reduction strategy remains unproven, study finds

September 27, 2018
A care package aimed at reducing the risk of babies being stillborn may offer marginal benefit, research suggests.

Women have up to a fourfold increase in risk of stillbirth following a previous stillbirth

June 24, 2015
Women who have experienced a stillbirth have up to a fourfold increased risk of stillbirth in a second pregnancy compared to those who had an initial live birth, finds a new meta-analysis published in The BMJ this week.

Recommended for you

Why mothers in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan choose cesarean delivery

October 16, 2018
Pregnant women in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan are more likely to express preference for cesarean section (CS) as their mode of delivery later in pregnancy and postpartum, as compared to early in pregnancy, according ...

Importance of cell cycle and cellular senescence in the placenta discovered

October 15, 2018
Working with researchers from Stanford University and St. Anna Children's Cancer Research, researchers from Jürgen Pollheimer's laboratory at the Medical University of Vienna's Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology have ...

C-section rates have nearly doubled since 2000: study

October 12, 2018
(HealthDay)—The number of women delivering babies via cesarean section has nearly doubled worldwide since 2000, to about 21 percent, new research shows.

Study of nearly 41,000 women who almost died giving birth shows who's most at risk

October 10, 2018
Tens of thousands of American women each year need emergency treatment to save their lives while they deliver their babies, or immediately after. A new study shows how much their risk of a life-threatening birth depends on ...

In childbirth, when to begin pushing does not affect C-section rates

October 9, 2018
More than 3 million women in the United States give birth each year. But obstetricians have differing opinions about when women should begin pushing during labor and whether the timing of pushing increases the likelihood ...

Why single embryo transfer during IVF sometimes results in twins or triplets

October 8, 2018
It has been known for some time that it is better to transfer a single embryo to a woman's womb during assisted reproduction treatment (ART) rather than several embryos in order to avoid a multiple pregnancy and the risks ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.