Most of 2.6 million stillbirths are 'preventable'

January 20, 2016, 3:47am


Many of the graves in this cemetery in the Sierra Leone capital Freetown are for stillborn children. Photo: Umaru Fofana on BBC News

BBC News

Over 3,000 lives are lost to stillbirth a day across the world - most of which are preventable, according to studies published by The Lancet.

Two-thirds of last year's 2.6 million stillbirths were in Africa. Half of stillbirths happen during labour as a result of preventable conditions, notably syphilis and malaria, they add.

The studies argue stillbirths are preventable through high-quality antenatal care. The studies say there is a widespread belief that stillbirths are due to birth defects and are unavoidable.

However, it points out that this only accounts for 7.3% of stillbirths after 28 weeks.

They ranked the three countries with the highest rates of still births as Pakistan, followed by Nigeria and Chad.

A notable exception is Rwanda, which the studies point out was able to reduce the number of stillbirths.

Stillbirths in numbers:


The countries with the highest stillbirth rates in 2015 and those with the largest numbers. Blue circles are proportionate to the number of stillbirths. Source: The Lancet

  • An estimated 2.6 million stillbirths occur annually
  • 98% occur in low-income and middle-income countries
  • 75% are in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia
  • More than half occur in conflict or emergency zones
  • Half of all stillbirths (1.3 million) occur during labour and birth
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, two-thirds of stillbirths are in rural areas
  • More than 40 million women give birth unattended at home each year
  • At present rates of progress, it will be 160 years until a woman in Africa will have the same chance of her baby being born alive as a woman in a high-income country

Source: The Lancet