Objective: To conduct a systematic review of the literature on stillbirths in developing countries.
Method: Review of the English literature for all articles related to stillbirth in developing countries published from 1975 to 2005.
Results: Because almost half of the deliveries in developing countries occur at home, under-reporting of stillbirths is a huge problem, and reliable data about rates and causes are difficult to obtain. Hospital stillbirth data are often subject to substantial bias and the ability to generalize from these data is unknown. Nevertheless, at least 4 million stillbirths occur yearly, the vast majority in developing countries, with rates in many developing countries ten-fold higher than elsewhere. Prolonged and obstructed labor, preeclampsia and various infections, all without adequate treatment, account for the majority of stillbirths.
Conclusion: Despite the large number of stillbirths worldwide, the topic of stillbirths in developing countries has received very little research, programmatic or policy attention. Better access to appropriate obstetric care, especially during labor, should reduce developing country stillbirth rates dramatically.