Background: Stillbirth rates have decreased radically over the last decades. One reason for this is improved perinatal care. The aim of this study was to explore whether sub-optimal factors in stillbirths were more frequent among non-western than western women.
Methods: Population-based perinatal audit of 356 stillbirths after gestational week 23, in 2 Norwegian counties during 1998-2003 (4.2 per 1,000 deliveries); of these 31% were born to non-western women. By audit, the stillbirths were attributed to optimal or sub-optimal care factors. Multivariate methods were used to analyse the data.
Results: Sub-optimal factors were identified in 37% of the deaths. When compared to western women, non-western women had an increased risk of stillbirth (OR: 2.2; 95% CI: 1.3-3.8), and an increased risk of sub-optimal care (OR: 2.4; 95% CI: 1.5-3.9). More often, non-western women received sub-optimal obstetric care (p<0.001), as e.g. failure to act on non-reassuring fetal status or incorrect assessment of labour progression. A common failure in antenatal care for both groups was unidentified or inadequate management of intrauterine growth restriction or decreased fetal movements. Non-western women were less prone to attend the program for antenatal care or to take the consequences of recommendations from health professionals. Inadequate communication was documented in 47% of non-western mothers; an interpreter was used in 29% of these cases.
Conclusions: Non-western women constituted a risk group for sub-optimal care factors in stillbirths. Possibilities for improvements include a reduction of language barriers, better identification and management of growth restriction for both origin groups, and adequate intervention in complicated vaginal births; with increased vigilance towards non-western women.