Sexual and reproductive health

The neglected tragedy of stillbirths

Health care worker listening to heart sounds during a pregnancy consultation.
UNICEF/Michele Sibiloni

Absent from the Millennium Development Goals and still missing in the Sustainable Development Goals, stillbirths remain a neglected issue, invisible in policies and programmes, underfinanced and in urgent need of attention.
Worldwide in 2015, for every 1000 total births, 18.4 babies were stillborn, mostly in low- and middle-income countries. Progress in reducing this rate has been slow and at present speed, 160 years will pass before a pregnant woman in Africa has the same chance of her baby being born alive as a woman in a high-income country today.

WHO launches new tools to help countries address stillbirths, maternal and neonatal deaths

Mother holds her newborn baby
WHO/Yoshi Shimizu

16 August 2016 -- Every day, women die during childbirth and babies are born stillborn. With quality health care throughout pregnancy and childbirth, many of these deaths could be prevented, but countries often lack the knowledge and capacity needed to take actions to stop other women and babies dying in the same way. To address this issue WHO is today launching two new tools to help countries improve their data on stillbirths and neonatal deaths as well as a report on the global status of implementation of maternal death surveillance and response (MDSR), a key strategy for reducing preventable maternal mortality.


fact buffet


2.6 million An estimated 2.6 million stillbirths occur annully.

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98%98% of stillbirths take place in low-income and middle-income countries.

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Most stillbirths are preventable

1.3 millionHalf of all stillbirths (1.3 million) occur during labour and birth. Most result from preventable conditions

Read more in the Lancet Series