In Australia, stillbirth is defined as a birth between 20 weeks gestation and full-term, in which a baby has died prior to delivery.
About six babies are stillborn in Australia each day. Sometimes the cause is identified afterwards but, in some cases, the death remains unexplained.
Stillbirth rates have not reduced in Australia over the past two decades. However, emerging evidence is contributing to new public health campaigns, such as #SleepOnSide, which encourages women to go to sleep on their side from 28 weeks gestation.
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In the immediate aftermath of the loss, parents face decisions about autopsies, funeral services, mementoes and keepsakes, which can seem overwhelming. Midwives, doctors and hospital social workers provide support and guidance with these decisions.
In Australia, stillbirths must be registered with the relevant state authority. This sometimes comes as a shock for bereaved parents. There is often paperwork to complete in relation to Centrelink payments and parental leave. Financial concerns and decisions about one partner returning to work may arise. These can all be extremely hard to deal with after such a shocking and traumatic bereavement.
Grief and trauma responses from parents can be varied and complex. It is not unusual for partners to find themselves experiencing their grief differently from each other. However, this does not mean that any one way is right or wrong. Professional counselling can help couples if they feel their relationship is under strain. Parents may also struggle to explain what is happening to other children in the family and are encouraged to seek professional support with this, as well as for themselves.