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Stillbirth rate still stubbornly high

A new report indicates that there still more than two million stillbirth each year worldwide. The numbers are not precise due to the difficulty of collecting accurate data in many parts of the developing world where the majority of stillbirths still occur. But even looking only at the rates of stillbirth in the Unites States and other developing countries, medical professionals had hoped that the rates would be lower.

The death of a fetus is considered a stillbirth when the fetus has reached at least 22 weeks of gestation. There are a number of potential causes of stillbirths including delivery complications, congenital abnormalities, maternal infection, or an error or mistake by one the medical professionals.

Among developed nations, the United States still ranks relatively highly for the number of stillbirths. According to the study out of every 1,000 births in the U.S. there are six stillbirths. Among African Americans that rate is nearly double. France and Austria also had relatively high rates of stillbirth. The lowest rates were found in Finland and Singapore where there are only about two stillbirths for every 1,000.

Some stillbirths seem likely to be inevitable regardless of what level of care or expertise is available to the pregnant woman. But many of these stillbirths are preventable. This is particularly true in developing countries where stillbirths actually outnumber higher profile public health problems like AIDS and malaria. The study suggests that more than half of the global stillbirths could be prevented by even a small investment in health care for each pregnant woman.

Source: CBS News "Stillbirths in America: How many babies die each year?" Neil Katz, April 14, 2011

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