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Stillbirth Foundation funds major research projects

Stillbirth Foundation funds major research project
Photo: Stillbirth Foundation funds major research projects
A round of funding granted by the Stillbirth Foundation Australia will enable two ground-breaking research projects, aimed at ending preventable stillbirths, to commence.

The first grant will support a world-first study into the endometrial environment in women who experience a preterm birth or preterm stillbirth.

While the second will support a population study of more than 1.5 million Australian women, examining and identifying pregnancies that have a higher risk of ending in an early stillbirth.

Stillbirth Foundation CEO, Leigh Brezler, said this year’s grants supported research into early stillbirth (20-28 weeks), which accounted for the highest proportion of stillbirths and infant deaths in Australia each year.

In fact, almost 70 per cent of all stillbirths occur before 28 weeks, as well as close to 65 per cent of neonatal deaths.
“While we have seen the rate of stillbirth after 28 weeks decline from 3.5 per 1000 to 2.2 per 1000 since 1999, the rate of early stillbirth and neonatal death has remained stubbornly high,” Ms Brezler said.

“The focus of these grants will be to gain a deeper understanding into the contributing factors and risk profiles of pregnancies that end in early stillbirth – both at population and cellular levels.”

The Ritchie Centre at the Hudson Institute of Medical Research was awarded $84,000 for its world-first study on the endometrial environment in women who experience a preterm birth or preterm stillbirth.

“Preventing stillbirths in the preterm period, when the majority of stillbirths occur, is a challenge,” the institute’s Dr Miranda Davies-Tuck said.

“Most research to date focuses on the placenta and ignores the critical steps that occur prior to the placenta forming, those that occur at the time of conception.”

Dr Davies-Tuck said the work would uncover novel early drivers of stillbirth and possible early targets for therapies to optimise the implantation microenvironment or support foetal development.

The second grant - $105,000 – will go to Dr Ibinabo Ibiebele of the Kolling Institute of Medical Research at the University of Sydney.

The funds will go towards a study into the causes, risk factors and subsequent pregnancy outcomes of early stillbirth in New South Wales.

Dr Ibiebele said this study would produce valuable baseline information about trends in early stillbirth and infant death to help monitor progress with prevention measures.
 
“Our study will pinpoint risk factors to identify pregnancies that have a higher risk of ending in an early stillbirth and determine whether women who have a previous early stillbirth are at risk of further complications in her next pregnancy,” Dr Ibiebele said.

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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a widely published journalist with more than 15 years experience in the media and communications industries.

Specialising in health, business, property and finance, Nicole writes regularly for numerous high-profile newspapers, magazines and online publications.

Before moving into freelance writing almost a decade ago, Nicole was an on-air reporter with Channel Nine and a newspaper journalist with News Limited.

Nicole is also the Director of content and communications agency Stella Communications (www.stellacomms.com) and a children's author.