NEW RESEARCH SUGGESTS SLEEP POSITION DURING PREGNANCY CAN HELP PREVENT STILLBIRTH
BY JESSICA BOSCO
A landmark new report has revealed that the rate of stillbirths in Australia has not changed in over 20 years. A sobering fact.
In parliament this week, members of the senate fought back tears as Labor senator Malarndirri McCarthy tabled the report in a wooden coolamon, which is traditionally used in Indigenous families for carrying babies and Senators Jim Molan and Kristina Keneally both became emotional as they spoke about how stillbirth had personally affected them and their families.
“I grew angry doing this work,” said Keneally. “My anger came from frustration, because there are simple steps to take to prevent stillbirth.
“I didn’t grow angry in a partisan way. The anger I felt was … just grief, that babies had died in this country when we could have saved them. It’s a particular sadness, a singular grief.”
The report found that stillbirth still affects 2000 families in Australia ever year and according to SANDS, in Australia, 1 in 120 births will be a stillbirth or a newborn death.
Australia is well behind other countries in reducing these rates.
The report also recommends that the government assesses the current employment laws to ensure adequate support for those who have suffered loss as well as ensuring they have access to paid parental leave.
Federal health minister, Greg Hunt, has announced a national roundtable to address the rate of stillbirth in Australia, and $7.2m for medical research and education programs, reports The Guardian.
"In Australia, six babies die each day from stillbirth, and by targeting easily modifiable risk factors, such as a woman's going to sleep position in late pregnancy, we can potentially save hundreds of babies each year," says Dr Adrienne Gordon, who is leading research in The Sleep in Pregnancy Pilot Trial at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, University of Sydney.
The trial hopes to identify whether advising pregnant women to settle to sleep on their side works to prevent stillbirth, and this will inform public health campaign messages and the advice that clinicians provide.
This trial is one of several research initiatives currently being undertaken into stillbirth.
"Through research and education, there is potential for Australia to make huge inroads into reducing the stillbirth rate, which is currently a significant health issue in Australia," says Professor Craig Pennell, Head of Red Nose's National Scientific Advisory Group and principal researcher with the Hunter Medical Research Institute.
"We have seen this in other countries such as Scotland where successful strategies have been implemented, dramatically reducing the rate of stillbirth."
According to the Stillbirth Foundation Australia, there are some potential measures mothers can take to try and prevent stillbirth, as outlined in a recent series on stillbirth published in The Lancet. The current advice to pregnant women is:
· Ensuring a healthy lifestyle and adequate folic acid intake prior to conception
· Attending all regular antenatal appointments
· Having an ultrasound in early pregnancy
· Screening for fetal growth restriction and pregnancy risks
· Supplementing a healthy diet with folic acid, iron, calcium and vitamin supplements
· Management of diabetes and hypertension prior to conception and during pregnancy
· Inducing post-term pregnancies as well as consideration of planned caesareans for babies in breech presentation
· Monitoring baby movement through kick counting, especially in the third trimester.
For more information on still birth and prevention you can visit rednose.com.au or Stillbirth Foundation Australia or if you or someone you know needs support you can contact SANDS on 1300 072 637 24 hours a day or Lifeline on 13 11 14.