Stillbirth rates among Indigenous and non-Indigenous women in Queensland, Australia: is the gap closing?

BJOG. 2015 Oct;122(11):1476-83. doi: 10.1111/1471-0528.13047. Epub 2014 Sep 3.


Objective: To determine whether the disparity gap is closing between stillbirth rates for Indigenous and non-Indigenous women and to identify focal areas for future prevention efforts according to gestational age and geographic location.

Design: Population-based retrospective cohort study.

Setting: Queensland, Australia.

Population: All singleton births of at least 20 weeks of gestation or at least 400 g birthweight.

Methods: Routinely collected data on births were obtained for the period 1995 to 2011. Indigenous and non-Indigenous stillbirth rates and percent reduction in the gap were compared over time and by geographic location and gestational age.

Main outcome measures: All-cause and cause-specific stillbirth rates (per 1000 ongoing pregnancies).

Results: Over the study period there was a 57.3% reduction in the disparity gap. Although marked reductions in the gap were shown for women in regional (57.0%) and remote (56.1%) locations, these women remained at increased risk compared with those in urban regions. There was no reduction for term stillbirths. Major conditions contributing to the disparity were maternal conditions (diabetes) (relative risk [RR] 3.78, 95% confidence intervals [95% CI] 2.59-5.51), perinatal infection (RR 3.70, 95% CI 2.54-5.39), spontaneous preterm birth (RR 3.08, 95% CI 2.51-3.77), hypertension (RR 2.22, 95% CI 1.45-3.39), fetal growth restriction (RR 1.78, 95% CI 1.17-2.71) and antepartum haemorrhage (RR 1.58, 95% CI 1.13-2.22).

Conclusions: The gap in stillbirth rates between Indigenous and non-Indigenous women is closing, but Indigenous women continue to be at increased risk due to a number of potentially preventable conditions. There is little change in the gap at term gestational ages.

Keywords: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander; cause of death; fetal death; indigenous; stillbirth; trends; urban.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Central Nervous System / abnormalities
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology
  • Ethnic Groups*
  • Female
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / epidemiology
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Hemorrhage / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / epidemiology
  • Infections / epidemiology
  • Oceanic Ancestry Group / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology
  • Premature Birth / epidemiology
  • Queensland / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Stillbirth / epidemiology*
  • Uterus / abnormalities