Clarity and consistency in stillbirth reporting in Europe: why is it so hard to get this right?

Eur J Public Health. 2022 Apr 1;32(2):200-206. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckac001.


Background: Stillbirth is a major public health problem, but measurement remains a challenge even in high-income countries. We compared routine stillbirth statistics in Europe reported by Eurostat with data from the Euro-Peristat research network.

Methods: We used data on stillbirths in 2015 from both sources for 31 European countries. Stillbirth rates per 1000 total births were analyzed by gestational age (GA) and birthweight groups. Information on termination of pregnancy at ≥22 weeks' GA was analyzed separately.

Results: Routinely collected stillbirth rates were higher than those reported by the research network. For stillbirths with a birthweight ≥500 g, the difference between the mean rates of the countries for Eurostat and Euro-Peristat data was 22% [4.4/1000, versus 3.5/1000, mean difference 0.9 with 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.8-1.0]. When using a birthweight threshold of 1000 g, this difference was smaller, 12% (2.9/1000, versus 2.5/1000, mean difference 0.4 with 95% CI 0.3-0.5), but substantial differences remained for individual countries. In Euro-Peristat, missing data on birthweight ranged from 0% to 29% (average 5.0%) and were higher than missing data for GA (0-23%, average 1.8%).

Conclusions: Routine stillbirth data for European countries in international databases are not comparable and should not be used for benchmarking or surveillance without careful verification with other sources. Recommendations for improvement include using a cut-off based on GA, excluding late terminations of pregnancy and linking multiple sources to improve the quality of national databases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Birth Weight
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Income*
  • Pregnancy
  • Stillbirth* / epidemiology