Australia

Stillbirths higher than road toll: Labor

Fewer babies are being born stillborn later in pregnancy in Australia, a new study has found. (AAP)

The federal government is seeking advice on tackling stillbirths and neonatal deaths after a new study found little progress in the past twenty years.

The Australian government is seeking advice on addressing stillborn deaths, which claim the lives of six babies each day.

New figures show there has been little improvement on tackling the tragedy over the past two decades.

Six babies are stillborn every day and another two die in the neonatal period - within the first 28 days of life - the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has found.

A recent parliamentary inquiry recommended adding stillbirth autopsies as a Medicare item, which the government has put to an advisory committee.

Health Minister Greg Hunt says the government will implement whatever advice it receives.

"It is immensely important for families that are affected but also in planning and understanding what we can as a nation can do better to prevent further tragedies," Mr Hunt told ABC radio on Thursday.

He believes this will also prove to be an invaluable data source.

The AIHW study shows while the number of babies lost to stillbirth or neonatal death in Australia has largely remained constant, the chance of a stillbirth occurring later in a woman's pregnancy is decreasing.

There were 9.1 deaths per 1000 births in 2015 and 2016.

The nation's stillbirth rate was at 6.8 per 1000 births in 2015 and 2016, with neonatal deaths occurring at a rate of 2.3 per 1000 live births.

Those rates have remained relatively constant since 1997, according to the the institute's Fadwa Al-Yaman.

However, there have been some improvements despite the stagnant figures.

"Between 1997 and 2016, the rate of stillbirths among babies born in the third trimester fell from 3.4 to 2.1 per 1000 births," Dr Al-Yaman said.

The report also showed a decline in the number of neonatal deaths for babies who are born in the third trimester of pregnancy and who die within their first month - from 1.4 per 1000 live births in 1997 to 0.8 in 2016.

Figures also showed the rate of stillbirth among babies born to indigenous women fell from 11.8 per 1000 births in 2005, to 10.5 in 2016.

The rates of neonatal deaths amongst babies born to indigenous women also fell.

"Whilst the rates of ... death of babies born to Indigenous women decreased, the rate was still higher compared to babies of non-Indigenous women," Dr Al-Yaman said.

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