Nation's high stillbirth rate in spotlight

Melbourne mother Maggie lost her second child and is helping raise awareness of stillborn deaths.
Melbourne mother Maggie lost her second child and is helping raise awareness of stillborn deaths.

There are six stillborn deaths each day on average in Australia, which is one of the worst rates in the developed world.

Melbourne mother Maggie, 29, knows the heartbreak, having lost her second son Jamie in early 2020 during coronavirus lockdown.

She wants to share her experience to raise awareness of stillbirths and hopefully help prevent deaths.

"Going into labour whilst simultaneously realising my son wouldn't survive is a feeling I will never forget. It was terrifying and very traumatic," she said.

Jamie was born at 21 weeks' gestation due to a placental abruption, resulting in a pre-term birth.

A national campaign Still Six Lives has been launched to provide education and reduce stigma.

Australia's stillbirth rate of 6.7 per 1000 births, or 2200 babies per year, hasn't changed for two decades.

Almost six-in-ten Australians know someone who has experienced a stillbirth, a survey by Still Six Lives has found.

"The reality is, this number is likely to be much higher due to the culture of silence associated with stillbirth," spokeswoman and Red Nose co-CEO, Jackie Mead, says.

"Having a stillborn baby is categorically not something to be ashamed of. It's universal. It can happen to anyone, anywhere. This is a conversation we need to be having."

She said stigma can stop people from sharing vital information about how to reduce the risk of stillbirth.

Still Six Lives says less than one in three people are aware sleeping on your side from 28 weeks of pregnancy can help reduce the risk of stillbirth.

"Before losing Jamie, I knew very little about stillbirth and I didn't think I knew anyone who'd experienced it," Maggie said.

"Now I know that's not the case. They just hadn't chosen to speak about it openly. Since my experience, a lot of people close to me, even family members, have opened up and shared that they have also experienced stillbirths.

"I was shocked at how common and prevalent it is and I never would have known had I not gone through it myself."

Maggie, who says her first pregnancy had been textbook perfect, started to learn more about stillbirth through maternity care professionals when she experienced challenges with Jamie.

Jamie was buried on Easter Saturday.

"I want other parents to know it is possible to survive an experience like this," Maggie says.

"I think about Jamie every single day, but it is possible to move forward with the grief, even if you don't think you can."

Still Six Lives urges expectant mothers to contact maternity care professionals immediately if they feel a change in their baby's movements and says babies do not stop moving towards the end of pregnancy despite a "common myth" suggesting otherwise.

Smoking, and second hand smoke, is a major contributor to stillbirths.

Australian Associated Press