Epidemiology of stillbirth in low-middle income countries: a Global Network Study

Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2011 Dec;90(12):1379-85. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0412.2011.01275.x. Epub 2011 Oct 24.


Objective: To determine population-based stillbirth rates and to determine whether the timing and maturity of the stillbirths suggest a high proportion of potentially preventable deaths.

Design: Prospective observational study.

Setting: Communities in six low-income countries (Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Zambia, Guatemala, India, and Pakistan) and one site in a mid-income country (Argentina).

Population: Pregnant women residing in the study communities.

Methods: Over a five-year period, in selected catchment areas, using multiple methodologies, trained study staff obtained pregnancy outcomes on each delivery in their area.

Main outcome measures: Pregnancy outcome, stillbirth characteristics.

Results: Outcomes of 195,400 deliveries were included. Stillbirth rates ranged from 32 per 1,000 in Pakistan to 8 per 1,000 births in Argentina. Three-fourths (76%) of stillbirth offspring were not macerated, 63% were ≥ 37 weeks and 48% weighed 2,500 g or more. Across all sites, women with no education, of high and low parity, of older age, and without access to antenatal care were at significantly greater risk for stillbirth (p<0.001). Compared to those delivered by a physician, women delivered by nurses and traditional birth attendants had a lower risk of stillbirth.

Conclusions: In these low-middle income countries, most stillbirth offspring were not macerated, were reported as ≥ 37 weeks' gestation, and almost half weighed at least 2,500 g. With access to better medical care, especially in the intrapartum period, many of these stillbirths could likely be prevented.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Delivery, Obstetric / statistics & numerical data
  • Developing Countries*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Maternal Age
  • Midwifery / statistics & numerical data
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Stillbirth / epidemiology*
  • Young Adult