Current Projects

Understanding the Causes of Stillbirth

Understanding the Cause of Stillbirth in New Zealand

Project lead: Lesley McCowan

Stillbirth in New Zealand is now ten times more common than cot death and is a devastating event which affects approximately 500 New Zealand families every year. Furthermore approximately 1 in 300 mothers have a stillborn baby after 28 weeks of pregnancy (late stillbirth).

The Auckland Stillbirth Study (TASS), completed in 2011, provided valuable insights into potentially modifiable factors associated with late stillbirth including maternal weight (overweight or obese), having four or more previous babies, attending less than 50% of recommended antenatal visits and reduced baby movements during pregnancy. A novel finding was that the risk of stillbirth for pregnant women who went to sleep on their left side was half that of those who went to sleep in any other position. While it is far to early to suggest that all pregnant women should be encouraged to go to sleep on their left, TASS has provided a stimulus for further research.

Accordingly a new larger multicentre stillbirth study commenced in 2012 to confirm or refute TASS findings and is taking place across New Zealand. The study is using the same method as TASS and exploring the newly identified sleep and lifestyle factors. The aim is to gain a better understanding of late stillbirth to assist in developing ways to reduce this tragedy in the future. Recruitment will be completed at the end of 2015 and the results of this second stillbirth study will be reported in late 2016.

Despite the tragedy of stillbirth, all TASS feedback from participants was positive. Women appreciated the opportunity to participate, with one mother saying “Hopefully we can help others in the future with the information that we gave, and something good might come from the tragic loss of our beautiful girl”.