Alarmingly, stillbirths account for 71% of all sudden and unexpected babies’ deaths in Australia. These deaths, defined from 20 weeks in pregnancy, are devastating to parents and their families, so with Red Nose’s aim to reduce infant death rates, stillbirth has now become a core focus of the organisation’s research agenda for 2017.
Today, on Red Nose Day, an annual day dedicated to raising critical funding and awareness for its world-class research, education and bereavement support programs – Red Nose are proud to announce they are working to reduce this startling rate with two new projects relating to stillbirth research commencing this year. With Red Nose’s success in decreasing the rate of sudden unexpected deaths in infancy by 80% since introducing the safe sleeping program in 1990, the organisation is extremely well positioned to contribute to significant reductions in stillbirth rates in Australia.
The most recently announced project, Preventing Term Stillbirth in South Asian Born Mothers, was one of the successful applications in Red Nose’s new research grant which saw the organisation take a more proactive approach to research last year, inviting research submissions in late 2016. This particular project aims to demonstrate the effectiveness of earlier post-term surveillance during pregnancy of South Asian born women – predominantly Indian, Sri Lankan and Pakistani women, who have a stillbirth rate twice that of both Anglo-Saxon and Chinese born Australian women.
The research team, led by Dr. Miranda Davies-Tuck of Hudson Institute of Medical Research, has evidence to demonstrate that “post-term” should be defined from 39 weeks rather than 41 weeks in South Asian born women, and that if surveillance commences at this earlier stage of pregnancy, the rate of stillbirth in late gestation will decrease.
Along with another successful project in the grant titled The effect of migration and acculturation on risk of stillbirth in Western Australia, Red Nose are contributing $199,005 to research into stillbirth in 2017 – expected to have a direct implication in saving Australian babies’ lives lead by Associate Professor Craig Pennell.
Of the research, Dr. Miranda Davies-Tuck says: “In recent years, the rate of stillbirth – particularly in vulnerable communities here in Australia, has not dramatically reduced, despite advances made in perinatal medicine. The trauma that families experience from these deaths is heartbreaking, and we believe that it’s something that we can stop, so the potential value of this new research in the prevention of stillbirth is immense.
“Over the next two to three years, we eagerly await the results of our research efforts and how these learnings can be applied to reduce infant mortality, both for the sake of Australian families, and those around the world.”
The impact stillbirth has on a family is debilitating, as Amanda Robinson from Geelong, Victoria experienced when she sadly lost her son Hunter Jack Mckiernan in 2012.
Of her son’s death, Amanda says: “The 21st of June, 2012 is a day that I will never forget. I was 29 weeks and one day pregnant, and I had a midwife appointment. She couldn’t find a heartbeat.
Amanda continues: “I was sent to the hospital for a scan and just couldn’t look at the screen as I knew that it would show no heartbeat. A few minutes later, I heard the dreaded few words ‘I’m sorry to say, but….’ I never knew what the rest of that sentence was. That same day they induced labour.
“At 10:30am on the 22nd of June 2012 my beautiful and precious Hunter Jack entered into this world ever so silently and peacefully sleeping. He weighed in at 620grams and had a head of dark hair.
“A week later we had a funeral for our sweet little boy and laid him to rest with about 100 friends and family.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t ever think of my precious little man – I visit him all the time including every Christmas and his every birthday, and take him balloons, presents and cake.
“Red Nose offered, and continue to offer, incredible support for our grieving process – We couldn’t have got through this experience without them. It’s so encouraging to hear about their focus on stillbirth research for 2017. If these findings can prevent even one family having to go through what we went through, I believe this research is of remarkable value.”
Professor Paul Colditz, Red Nose Board Member, Professor of Perinatal Medicine at the University of Queensland and Director of the Perinatal Research Centre adds: “As we head into Red Nose Daythis Friday June 30th, these alarming stillbirth figures and resulting projects we’ve funded are a great opportunity to highlight how critical support from the Australian public is in achieving Red Nose’s goals.
“Funds raised through Red Nose Day enable us to contribute to vital research in the most crucial areas of sudden and unexpected death, such as stillbirth, supporting us in our mission to reduce the number of Australian children’s deaths per day from nine to zero.”
Celebrating its 29th year today, Red Nose Day is fundamental in highlighting the devastating fact that each year in Australia over 3,200 babies and children die suddenly and unexpectedly – with causes including stillbirth, SIDS and fatal sleep accidents.
Red Nose relies on public support of Red Nose Day to help fund its life-saving research projects as well as education and bereavement support programs. Australians can get involved this year by purchasing a red nose or other Red Nose Day product, making a donation, hosting a children’s fundraising disco or setting up an online fundraising page. Visit www.rednoseday.com.au to learn more.