Study: Half of all stillbirths preventable

A huge, global study has revealed some surprising information about the pervasiveness of stillbirths, even in high-income countries with more comprehensive health care systems.

Study co-author Joy Lawn says more than 7,000 stillbirths occur each day, which Lawn says is a higher toll than AIDS and malaria combined. The researchers relied on a few different data sources to compile the statistics and say that although rates of stillbirths have declined nearly 15% since 1995, there were still 2.64 million incidents in 2009. 76% of the world’s stillbirths occur in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, but researchers said that wealthier countries such as Australia, Canada, the US and the UK had seen “little or no improvement over the last two decades.”

Part of the study’s thrust was the preventability of stillbirths:

Obesity, high blood pressure, smoking and advanced maternal age are all known to be risk factors for stillbirths, making some preventable. In a separate paper in the series, Zulfiqar Bhutta at Aga Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan and colleagues highlighted 10 interventions that, if implemented, could cut the global number of still births by around half.

The interventions include folic acid supplementation before and during pregnancy, detection and treatment of syphilis, prevention of malaria and improved obstetric care. “None of these interventions are remarkably new science,” says Lawn.

A study out of the University of Pretoria in South Africa suggests that interventions for the prevention of stillbirths would cost just $2.32 per person, per day.