Each week, 42 babies are delivered into a world they will never get to know. Each of these stillbirths leaves a family bereaved, questioning. But new research has found that, in the majority of case, these families will never receive answer.
According to a study released this week by the Mater Research Institute and University of Queensland, 60 per cent of stillbirths in Australia are recorded as “unexplained”, a finding that has sparked calls for the Government to create national guidelines for investigating such tragedies.
“If we can’t explain why a stillbirth has happened, it’s impossible to know what to target to prevent it in future,” review co-author Dr Hanna Reinebrant said.
“It’s important to establish a cause of death to help parents understand what went wrong and to guide clinical care for any future pregnancies. It would also help in developing prevention and education programs for women.”
For NSW midwife, Emma Porter, whose son Conor was stillborn in 2012, measures such as those can’t come soon enough.
“There’s just no answers for some people,” the 29-year-old said. “I know of families going back to have their second baby after losing their first to stillbirth, without knowing what happened. Sometimes it happens again, and it’s ‘unexplained’ again. These people are just desperate to have a family, but have to keep trying with this unknown hanging over their heads.”
Monique Bowley shares her story of pregnancy loss. (Post continues below.)
While her son’s death was explained (she had contracted Parvovirus, or ‘slapped cheek syndrome’ early in her pregnancy), she has seen the compounding effect that not knowing the cause of death has on her patient’s mental health.
“Statistics surrounding post natal depression and anxiety are already through the roof. And while we’re getting so better at identifying that, I think there’s a lot to be answered for given the angst that comes with unexplained stillbirth,” she said. “It can carry on to subsequent pregnancies, and even after a baby is born.”