Dealing with grief

Helping families recover from stillbirths.

Queensland Health has launched a new state-wide improvement project to assist families who have been affected by stillbirths.

The project, which aims to reduce preventable stillbirths by 20% by 2022, comes after six babies a day have been born stillborn across Australia over the last 20 years.

Executive Director Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Service Kirstine Sketcher-Baker said opportunities for prevention exist.

“Stillbirths are a serious public health problem with far-reaching psychosocial and financial burdens for mothers, fathers and their families,” Ms Sketcher-Baker said.

To combat this, Queensland Health has partnered with the Stillbirth Centre of Research Excellence to provide the Safer Baby Bundle (SBB) to hospitals and antenatal services.

The SBB consists of five elements designed to reduce stillbirth rates after 28 weeks of gestation and is anticipated to prevent up to 80 families a year experiencing stillbirth.

The five SBB steps include:

  1. Supporting women to stop smoking during pregnancy.
  2. Improving the detection and management of fetal growth restriction.
  3. Raising awareness and improve care for women with decreased fetal movements.
  4. Improving awareness of maternal safe going-to-sleep position in late pregnancy.
  5. Improving decision-making about the timing of birth for women with risk factors for stillbirth.

Ms Sketcher-Baker said it was imperative women followed the steps to reduce the rates of stillbirth.

“Research has revealed women who sleep on their side from 28 weeks of pregnancy could halve the chance of stillbirths while 4-7% of stillbirths can be prevented by not smoking during pregnancy,” she said.

Ms Sketcher-Baker said expectant mothers should also keep a close eye on their baby’s movements.

“Women should continue to feel the baby move right up to the time they go into labour and during labour,” she said.

“If you're at all concerned about the baby’s movements, phone the hospital.”

Brisbane mother Brooke Campbell, 29, tragically lost her unborn son Darcy at 36 weeks, after she suffered a haemorrhage caused by placental abruption.

“I had reduced movements for a few days until the event took place, but I just put it down to Darcy being a larger baby and being close to being born,” Ms Campbell said.

“I want to warn all women to get checked if they feel any reduced movements at all or any changes in their pregnancy.

“The pain and suffering we endured was and still is horrendous - No parent should ever have to bury their healthy child.”