Improvement in stillbirth and neonatal death rates in late stage pregnancies

UNDER EMBARGOuntil 1.00am, Thursday, 4 July, 2019

There were 623,701 babies born in Australia during 2015 and 2016 and 5,702 perinatal deaths — 9.1 per 1,000 births, according to a report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

The report, Stillbirths and neonatal deaths in Australia 2015 and 2016, shows that three quarters (4,263) of the perinatal deaths were stillbirths and the remaining quarter (1,439) were neonatal deaths. These occurred at a rate of 6.8 stillbirths per 1,000 births and 2.3 neonatal deaths per 1,000 live births.

In Australia, about 6 babies are stillborn every day and 2 die in the neonatal period (within 28 days of birth), with congenital anomaly accounting for almost a third of all perinatal deaths.

‘Rates of perinatal death have remained relatively constant since 1997,’ said AIHW spokesperson Dr Fadwa Al-Yaman.

‘In 2004 and 2005, the highest rates were reported at 10.5 perinatal deaths per 1,000 births for each of those years, and in 2016 the lowest rate of 9.1 perinatal deaths was reported. However there have been improvements among some groups.’

Fewer stillbirths are occurring in the third trimester of pregnancy (from 28 weeks gestation).

‘Between 1997 and 2016, the rate of stillbirths among babies born in the third trimester fell from 3.4 to 2.1 per 1,000 births,’ Dr Al-Yaman said.

For neonatal deaths, the report also shows that there has been a decline in the number of newborn babies born in the third trimester who die within the first month after birth, from 1.4 per 1,000 live births in 1997 to 0.8 in 2016.

‘Between 2005 and 2016, the rate of stillbirth among babies born to Indigenous women fell from 11.8 to 10.5 per 1,000 births. Most notably, the neonatal death rate for the babies of Indigenous women fell from 7.4 to 4.3 per 1,000 live births,’ Dr Al-Yaman said.

‘Whilst the rates of perinatal death of babies born to Indigenous women decreased, the rate was still higher compared to babies of non-Indigenous women.’

Dr Al-Yaman said ongoing monitoring of perinatal deaths could help build the evidence base to drive better outcomes and that the AIHW was also working on improving the quality of data around contributory factors.

‘The report provides valuable information to enable effective policy, practice and services for mothers and babies,’ she said.

Media enquiries: Elise Guy, AIHW: Tel. 02 6244 1156, mob. 0468 525 418