Nearly 80% of the pregnant women referred for childbirth to New Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital have not consulted any doctor during their pregnancy.This lack of obstetric care, which should be provided to pregnant woman, is one of the prime causes of stillbirths. According to the research data revealed during the launch of British medical journal Lancet’s stillbirth series on Thursday, on an average, six lakh stillbirths take place in India every year. Of the 2.7 crore babies that are born in the country every year, there are 22 stillbirths per 1,000 births.
However, the research for the Lancet series states that obstetric care provided to pregnant women can reduce the number of stillbirths by 28% and is also proposed as one of the top 10 preventive measures.
Nigeria and Pakistan have the highest stillbirth rates of 42 and 46 per 1,000 births, respectively and Finland and Singapore have two per 1,000 births.
“Eighty per cent is a huge number, and with the absence of any medical history, it becomes difficult to ascertain the actual cause of death that most women are keen to know,” said a senior gynaecologist at Safdarjung Hospital, requesting anonymity.
Experts at Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh, say that most number of stillbirths happen during intrapartum — the period between labour and delivery. PGIMER, Chandigarh routinely conducts post-mortem of the dead babies to determine the cause of death. “It is a practice that we have followed since long, but not all hospitals can replicate the habit for lack of adequate facilities. Congenital defect is the lowest common cause of death,” said Dr Rajesh Kumar, head, PGIMER School of Public Health, Chandigarh.
Though the gynaecology department of some of the big public hospitals such as Safdarjung, Ram Manohar Lohia, etc would want autopsies to be conducted to learn the cause of death, they are unable to do so due to technical reasons.