Decades-long push to lower stillbirth rate in the US has stalled

Decades-long push to lower stillbirth rate in the US has stalled

A decades-long effort to lower the stillbirth rate in the United States has stalled, as has progress in closing a persistent gap in excess stillbirths experienced by Black women compared with White women, according to a Rutgers-led study.

“Over the last 40 years, we have reduced certain risk factors for stillbirth, such as smoking and alcohol use before and during pregnancy, but these gains have been countered by substantial increases in other risk factors, like obesity and structural racism,” said Cande Ananth, chief of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and lead author of the study published in The Lancet Regional Health — Americas.

“Our findings illustrate that past progress has now been offset by these newly identified risks,” Ananth said.

To determine how cultural and environmental factors impact stillbirths among Black and White women in the U.S., Ananth and a team of Rutgers obstetricians examined changes in stillbirth rates between 1980 and 2020.

Using data compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and covering all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the researchers measured how maternal age, year of death (indicative of changes in prenatal and intrapartum care and other factors) and maternal birth cohorts (indicative of social and environmental elements, such as socioeconomic status, education, nutrition and substance use at the time of the women’s birth) shaped stillbirth trends.

More than 157 million live births and nearly 711,000 stillbirths delivered at 24 or more weeks over the last four decades in the U.S. were included in the study.

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