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Stillbirth research centre launched in Queensland

Photo: New stillbirth research centre launched
There are six stillbirths every day in Australia and in the majority of these cases the cause is unknown.

For the past 20 years the rate of stillbirth in Australia has not changed.

There are six stillbirths every day, that's more than 2000 a year, and in the majority of cases the cause is unknown.

But the launch of the first national research centre dedicated to investigating stillbirth and its causes is set to change the "shameful" lack of action.

The Stillbirth Centre for Research Excellence at the University of Queensland's Mater Research Institute, launched on Monday, will aim to drive the rate down.

Associate Professor Vicki Flenady from the MRI says stillbirth is not 'nature's way', as many wrongly perceive, and can be prevented.
"We have got to dispel these myths and convince people that stillbirths are potentially preventable and they are a significant loss to families," Prof Flenady said.

The target of the CRE - a collaboration of the MRI, Stillbirth Foundation Australia and the National Health and Medical Research Council - is to reduce stillbirths by a third within the next five years.

They aim to focus on better managing the care of women with stillbirth risk factors, Prof Flenady told AAP.

Part of this will involve a large trial of a new mobile phone app, to be rolled out across 30 hospitals, to educate pregnant women about decreased foetal movement.

"This is often an early warning sign the baby is unwell before stillbirth," said Prof Flenady.

They also hope to better understand the causes of stillbirth.

Up to a third of stillbirths can be prevented through simple measures such as the mother sleeping on her left side and eating and drinking the right thing.

But the cause of the other two thirds is unknown.

"We need to understand the mechanisms of stillbirth better, " Prof Flenady said.

Improving bereavement care, which is currently "suboptimal" and "ad hoc", will be another important focus as many women report the care they received after the birth of their stillborn baby didn't meet their needs.

"Globally we've got about four million women at this very time suffering depression after having a stillborn baby and we know that early intervention can help," she said.

Victoria Bowring, the general manager of Stillbirth Foundation Australia, says "inaction on stillbirth has been a national shame, but the new research centre presents both new hope and a new way forward".


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