The importance of stillbirth education and research

The importance of stillbirth education and research

Blog by A/Prof Mike Beckmann Director, Mothers Babies and Women’s Health Services and Dr Glenn Gardener, Director, Mater Centre for Maternal Fetal Medicine.

As the largest provider of maternity healthcare services in Australia, Mater Mothers cares for more than 10,000 mothers and babies every year. Tragically, Mater also manages the care of several hundred women who will experience a miscarriage and more than 100 mothers every year who will not take their baby home.

On 27 March 2018 the Senate established the Select Committee on Stillbirth Research and Education (Select Committee) to inquire and report on the future of stillbirth research and education in Australia, including:

  • the consistency and timeliness of data available to researchers;
  • coordination between Australian and international researchers;
  • partnerships with the corporate sector, including use of innovative new technology;
  • sustainability and propriety of current research funding into stillbirth, and future funding options;
  • research and education priorities and coordination, including the role that innovation and the private sector can play;
  • communication of stillbirth research for Australian families, including culturally and linguistically appropriate advice for Indigenous and multicultural families; and
  • quantifying the impact of stillbirths on the Australian economy.

Mater Mothers welcomes the establishment of the Select Committee to raise the profile of stillbirth, to drive change to reduce stillbirths and to improve bereavement care and subsequent care for those who have had a stillbirth and made a submission to the Select Committee including a summary of recommended priority actions.

As Co-Director of the Stillbirth Centre of Research Excellence (Stillbirth CRE), Professor Vicki Flenady of Mater Research Institute-University of Queensland (MRI-UQ) is passionate about tackling the problem of stillbirth in Australia, and working to reduce the unacceptably high burden of stillbirths for future families and the community.

The Stillbirth CRE submission noted that stillbirth is a serious public health problem in Australia.

“Stillbirth is not a rare event. It affects more than 2,000 Australian families each year. The personal, health system and economic costs are enormous. Many stillbirths are preventable, and Australia is underperforming in the challenge to reduce deaths and improve care and support for those who experience stillbirth.

 “… There has been no significant change in overall stillbirth rates for over 20 years. One in every 137 Australian women who reach 20 weeks’ of pregnancy will have a stillborn baby. Australia lags behind other high-income countries; our stillbirth rate (beyond 28 weeks of pregnancy) is 35 per cent higher than the best performing countries.”

Their submission noted that a coordinated approach would make it possible to reduce the rate of term stillbirth by 30 per cent by 2025.

“Stillbirth is an issue of national significance that requires coordinated leadership and action across all levels of Australian government to improve the current and future wellbeing of Australian women, their families and our wider society.”

At Mater Mothers we support the training and education of medical students, junior doctors, specialists, midwives and many other health professionals involved in the care of pregnant women and their babies. We have an active clinical research program supported by the Stillbirth CRE and MRI-UQ. Through philanthropic donations, Mater Foundation provides funding to support research and improvements in clinical care.

Urgent action is needed for our patients, our families and our staff, particularly to better understand the role of risk factors and to identify women at increased risk of stillbirth.

Excerpts included from the submissions linked below:

Read full inquiry submission from Mater Health  
Read full inquiry submission from Centre of Research Excellence in Stillbirth (Stillbirth CRE)
All submissions



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