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Dr Susanna Kent - Stillbirths and neonatal deaths - 13 October

Stillbirths and Neonatal Deaths

In New Zealand every year more than 600 babies are stillborn or die in the first month of life. This is equivalent to deaths from breast cancer.

For every 1000 live births, eight are stillborn.

There are a variety of causes but in a certain percentage, the cause of the death is never known. This is an area of ongoing research.

Some of the causes of stillbirth are:
Chromosomal abnormalities (e.g. Downs syndrome)
Placental problems e.g. placental abruption, which is when the placenta tears away from the uterine wall. (causes bleeding and lack of oxygen to the baby)
Disruption of the blood supply in the umbilical cord
Maternal health problems
Premature rupture of membranes

There are risk factors for having a stillbirth and these include:
Maternal age > 40 years
Little antenatal care

These factors perhaps explain why the rate of still births in New Zealand is not declining as more women choose to have babies later in life, and more of us are overweight.

Often women who lose a baby at birth or after 20 weeks of gestation miss out because there are not the structures there to help e.g. Plunket.

Sands is a voluntary organisation that helps women who have had a stillbirth of newborn death.