Battling maternal obesity would reduce stillbirth rate

HIGH-income countries, such as Australia, could cut stillbirth rates with strategies including tackling maternal obesity, which affects up to 58% of pregnant women, experts say.

Australia has a stillbirth rate of 2.9 per 1000, higher than some other high-income countries, including Singapore at 2.0 per 1000, Finland at 2.0 per 1000 and Denmark at 2.2 per 1000, 2009 data shows. 

These figures assume the World Health Organization’s defining standard of stillbirth at 28 weeks’ gestation or later. In Australia, stillbirth is usually defined at 20 weeks or later, which pushes up the rate to 7.4 per 1000.

Obesity, smoking and advanced maternal age were among the big risk factors for stillbirth in high-income countries, researchers said.

Dr Rupert Sherwood, Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists president, said there were a few factors to focus on in attempts to reduce the stillbirth rate.