ABS Data Reveals National Crisis: 1,718 Stillbirth Deaths in 2015 Alone

New data reveals today that stillbirth claimed the lives of more than 1,700 children in Australia last year – five babies every day.

That is the catastrophic finding in the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures on causes of death in Australia.

“Stillbirth is a preventable killer that we should be trying to research and advertise out of existence,” said Stillbirth Foundation Australia, Victoria Bowring.

“Today’s ABS report should be nothing less than a heartbreaking call to arms for Government and researchers. This is an all too common tragedy that is haunting too many Australians families.”

In 2015 alone, there was 1,718 stillbirth deaths in Australia – 20 per cent higher than the 1,383 deaths caused by transport accidents.

“Stillbirth Foundation Australia knows up to one third of those stillbirths can be prevented through education, and these statistics today show almost two thirds (1,120) have an unknown cause.

“The national stillbirth toll dwarfs the national road toll, but ours is a toll that is met largely with silence, when what we need is a similar approach. 

“We need to significantly increase funding for research into stillbirth, and we need additional funding for advertising campaigns to let parents know about the proven preventative measures.

“These ABS figures must be a wake-up call for governments, the health profession and families across the country, and we will be taking them to state and federal government in coming months.

“We have literally dozens of examples of mothers who did not know that sleeping on their side is best, or who were turned away from hospitals when their baby’s movement changed or slowed.

“Both families and the health profession need better education. Governments and the private sector need to provide funding for campaigns and research. This national crisis must be addressed.”

Of the 1,718 fetal deaths in Australia in 2015, 1,120 (65%) had an unknown cause, highlighting the need for more research into prevention, and campaigning to address preventable causes.

Data held by Stillbirth Foundation Australia shows up to one in three stillbirths are preventable if a mother takes simple steps such as:

  • Sleeping on her side, preferably her left side;
  • Eating and drinking the right thing; and
  • Going to hospital if a baby’s movement patterns change.

According to the ABS, stillbirth is listed as fetal deaths, which are described as deaths after 20 weeks' gestation or at least 400 grams' birth weight.

Different classifications used by the WHO, and on a state-by-state or hospital-by-hospital basis can influence the numbers. Stillbirth Australia actually estimates they are higher – around 2,200 a year.

“What we have is concrete evidence that we have too many preventable deaths, and too many unexplained deaths,” said Bowring.

“One third of all stillbirths can be prevented through education and greater awareness. Too often families are not warned of the risks, or are not treated properly by the system.

Bowring said there’s more to stillbirth prevention than avoiding sushi and soft cheese.

“Parents should be monitoring baby movement and mums should be sleeping on their sides,” said Bowring.

“And of course there are the things more widely known such as managing weight, and avoiding alcohol and smoking. These are simple steps that can save your baby’s life.”