Study on stillbirth could change guidelines for some

Study on stillbirth could change guidelines for some
Study on stillbirth could change guidelines for some

SBS World News Radio: Study on stillbirth could change guidelines for some

New research has shown South Asian- and African-born women in Australia face a far greater risk of stillbirth than their locally born counterparts.

The findings have prompted a rethink of international guidelines and the tailoring of late-term foetal monitoring for mothers from different ethnic backgrounds.

It is first-time parenthood for Indian-born Arkesh and Beena Patel of Melbourne, celebrating the arrival of their days-old baby boy, Daiwek.

For Arkesh Patel, his son is an exciting, healthy bundle of joy.

"Yeah, about 3kg weight, nearly 3kg weight ... 52.5 centimetres in length ... and nice and healthy. Happy. Very exciting time, actually."

But Monash University researcher Miranda Davies-Tuck says, for too many others from India now living in Australia, pregnancies end with the pain and trauma of stillbirth.

"When we took into account all the other factors that could increase their risk of stillbirth, the South Asian and African mothers tended to have, on average, about a 40 per cent increased risk of stillbirth, compared to the Australian-born women."

New research from the Hudson Institute in Melbourne shows stillbirth is most prevalent among women from countries like India, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.

Monash Medical Centre obstetrician Dr Shavi Fernando says the findings have the potential to change international practice when it comes to caring for pregnant mothers.

"We suspect that, probably, South Asian women have a shorter gestation than Caucasian women and even South-East Asian women, and we suspect that these babies just mature earlier and, therefore, their placentas fail earlier as well."

The study of almost 700,000 births in Victoria between 2000 and 2011 shows the overall stillbirth rate for South Asian-born mothers was just over five for every thousand.

The figure was 3.3 per thousand for those from Australia and New Zealand.

With the research, obstetricians are now developing new guidelines which would bring forward the crucial post-term surveillance of pregnant mothers of South Asian background.

It would move from 41-and-a-half weeks to 39.

And, Dr Shavi Fernando says, it could lead to recommending induced labour at 40 weeks -- or even earlier.

"I think the most exciting thing is that it will change clinical practice in Australia and probably even overseas where populations from South Asia are high. I think that already, in my private practice, I'm starting to induce South Asian women earlier."

With Australia's increasingly multicultural mix, the findings may also explain why the country's stillbirth numbers continue to rise.

Red Nose Day Foundation chief executive Yvonne Amos says there is much mystery around the figures.

"2,200 stillbirths occur each year, with 50 per cent of those stillbirths with no known cause. Without identifying the cause, the trend would continue to increase."

Geelong mother Amanda Robinson is one of those who has experienced the tragedy of losing her baby son.

"It's ... like, I don't know how to describe it. But it's just heart-wrenching. It's like someone's ripped your heart out. I'll never forget my sister's face when he was born. My ex-husband, my mother-in-law and my whole family went through so much."