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Study Suggests 3.2 Million Annual Stillbirths Worldwide

Number may be underestimated due to poor record-keeping for stillbirths

WEDNESDAY, May 3 (HealthDay News) -- The first systematic worldwide study of stillbirth incidence indicates that there were over 3 million in 2000 alone but the number is likely an underestimate, according to a report published online May 2 in The Lancet. For various reasons, these deaths go largely unaccounted for in health surveys.

Joy Lawn, of the Saving Newborn Lives initiative in Cape Town, South Africa, and Cynthia Stanton, Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Md., led a team that used vital registrations, health surveys and published studies to develop a regression model used to predict national rates of stillbirth, defined as death occurring in the final trimester.

Using data from 190 countries, the authors estimated that 3.2 million stillbirths occurred during 2000. However, this number may be low because of the tendency to not record stillbirths. They also found that stillbirth rates ranged from five per 1,000 in wealthy countries to 32 per 1,000 in south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

"Improving stillbirth data is the first step towards making stillbirths count in public-health action," the authors conclude. "In the 21st century we invest in detailing the human genome, but cannot even approximately count this huge number of dead babies. We are left to wonder if stillbirths count."

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