Africa

Most of 2.6 million stillbirths are 'preventable'

The graves of stillborn children in Sierra Leone Image copyright Umaru Fofana
Image caption Many of the graves in this cemetery in the Sierra Leone capital Freetown are for stillborn children

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:

Image copyright The Lancet
Image caption The countries with the highest stillbirth rates in 2015 and those with the largest numbers. Blue circles are proportionate to the number of stillbirths.
  • 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

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