60+ babies stillborn every day in SA

Johannesburg - More than 60 babies are stillborn in South Africa every day, The Lancet medical journal reported on Friday.

"South Africa ranks 176 out of 193 countries for stillbirth numbers and 148 for stillbirth rate," the SA Medical Research Council's (MRC) quoted on its website from The Lancet's series of articles.

"Improving quality of care at birth and targeting disparities are key priorities for action," it said.

The Lancet's report was the first ever official estimate of global stillbirths and showed that 2.6 million babies were stillborn world-wide every year.

The study was conducted in partnership with the World Health Organisation.

"Every day more than 7 300 babies are stillborn globally," the report found.

"In South Africa over 61 babies are stillborn each day. These stillbirths are in addition to 58 newborn deaths every day, and yet newborn, child and maternal deaths count in national and global goals, but stillbirths do not."

Most stillbirths in lower-income nations

The Lancet reported that stillbirths had declined globally by only 1.1% a year, from three million in 1995 to 2.6m in 2009, which was slower than reductions in child and maternal mortality.

"In South Africa, the average rate of decline has only been 0.9% per year, from an estimated 25 000 stillbirths in 1995 to 23 000 stillbirths in 2009."

Ninety-eight percent of stillbirths occurred in low and middle-income countries.

Half of all stillbirths occurred in just five countries - India, Pakistan, Nigeria, China and Bangladesh, with Pakistan having the highest rate at almost 47 stillbirths per 1 000 births.

Finland and Singapore had the lowest rates - two stillbirths per 1000 births.

The main causes of stillbirths were childbirth complications, maternal infections in pregnancy, maternal disorders, foetal growth restriction and congenital abnormalities.


"Interventions such as emergency obstetric care and treatment of maternal infections and conditions could prevent 44% of stillbirths (1.1 million world-wide) if made universally available in countries with the highest burden of stillbirths," the Lancet found.

It estimated that 2.6 million deaths of mothers, newborns and stillbirths could be prevented world-wide.

"In South Africa, universal coverage of key interventions for maternal and newborn health and stillbirths could prevent 2 000 deaths at an additional cost of R35 per person."

The quality of health care, overcrowding and understaffing at health facilities needed to be addressed.

"Almost no burden affecting families is so big and yet so invisible in society and on the global public health agenda, yet this invisible loss deeply affects women all over the world," said Cape Town-based Joy Lawn, one of the lead authors of The Lancet's stillbirth series.
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