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Safer Baby—working together to reduce stillbirth

Stillbirth is a tragedy that affects too many families—every day in Australia six babies are stillborn and there has been little improvement in that rate for three decades.

However recent research has shown that there are evidence-based modifiable risk factors and it is important to arm expectant parents with information about these so they may be able to reduce the risk of stillbirth.

The Mater Research Institute—University of Queensland (MRI-UQ) Centre of Research Excellence in Stillbirth has created the Safer Baby Bundle which aims to help women understand the risk factors in five key areas where it is known that stillbirth can be prevented.

5 ways to reduce the risk of stillbirth

Quit Smoking

Smoking in pregnancy is one of the main causes of stillbirth and is also linked to other complications such as preterm birth. Quitting smoking at any point during your pregnancy will reduce the risk of harm to your baby, but the sooner you quit, the better the outcome for your baby. Ask your pregnancy health care provider for support to quit smoking or for advice on how to stay away from secondhand smoke.

SUPPORT: Visit out Quit Smoking Support Section for non-judgemental support

Growing Matters

Fetal Growth Restriction (FGR) is when your baby is growing slower than expected. It is a key risk factor for stillbirth. That is why it is important to attend all your pregnancy care appointments as your risk for FGR will be assessed in early pregnancy and your baby’s rate of growth will be measured and monitored at each appointment. If your baby is growing at a rate slower than expected you may be required to have increased monitoring or regular ultrasounds.

Movements Matter

Understanding your baby’s pattern of movement is an important way to tell if they are well and one of the easiest things you can do to help keep them safe and healthy. There are no set number of movements per day to count, but it is important to learn what is normal for your baby.

You will start to feel your baby move between weeks 16 and 24 and you’ll continue to feel them move right up until birth (even during labour). A baby’s movement can range from a flutter to a kick or a roll—these are signs that your baby is well. An unwell baby may try to conserve energy by slowing down their movements—this can be the first signs that something is not right. If you are concerned about a change in your baby’s movement, contact your health care provider immediately.

Sleep on your side

Research has shown that going to sleep on your side from 28 weeks of pregnancy can halve your risk of stillbirth, compared with going to sleep on your back. Sleeping on your back can reduce blood flow to your uterus and oxygen flow to your baby.

You can go to sleep on either the left or the right side—either side is fine. It’s normal to change position during sleep and many pregnant women wake up on their back. That’s OK!

Timing of birth

All pregnancies have an optimal time of birth. If your pregnancy is healthy and progressing normally then it is best to wait for labour to start on its own. If a planned birth is needed (via caesarean or induction) then it is best to plan it as close to 40 weeks as possible. Talk to your health care professional about the safest time to have your baby.

Every week that your baby grows inside can make a difference to their health and development. If there are health concerns that might increase your risk of stillbirth, your health care professional will discuss with you how the timing of birth might reduce risks, with your pregnancy continuing as long as it is safe for you and your baby.

FORUM: Find support in our Support After Stillbirth forum section.

For more information visit the Stillbirth Centre of Research Excellence Safer Baby Bundle.

About Bub Hub

Our Bub Hub team is in the thick of the sleep deprivation, tantrums and unconditional love that comes with parenting. Plus, with the support of Mater, we have unvetted access to the minds of Australia’s leading ...

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