MRI-UQ researchers awarded funding to establish Stillbirth Centre of Excellence

28 Nov 2016

The leader of a new Stillbirth Centre of Research Excellence (CRE) at Mater Research Institute-University of Queensland says urgent action is needed to tackle the issue in Australia.

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has awarded $2.4 million for the five year MRI-UQ project to be led by Professor Vicki Flenady.  

“The focus will be on reducing the stillbirth rate after 28 weeks’ gestation, and improving the quality of care for affected families.”    

Professor Flenady said Australia’s stillbirth rate beyond 28 weeks gestation is more than double that of the best performing country.  

“We need to urgently raise awareness of risk factors and to implement effective interventions for women at increased risk,” Professor Flenady said.  

“More than 2000 families each year suffer the loss of stillbirth, and there has been no improvement in those rates for over 20 years.”  

One in every 137 women who reach 20 weeks’ gestation will have a stillborn child and for Indigenous and other disadvantaged and minority groups, this risk is often doubled.  

The CRE will bring together seven research centres in partnership with the Stillbirth Foundation Australia.  

“Our team of clinicians, researchers and policy makers will generate new knowledge about causes and prediction of stillbirth as well as new interventions for prevention, and care after stillbirth,” Professor Flenady said.

“Our research has shown that up to 50 per cent of bereaved parents in Australia and New Zealand feel unable to talk about their babies and that their baby is not acknowledged or valued.  

“The majority of these deaths are not appropriately investigated or classified in terms of their cause, with up to 60 per cent of stillbirths near term classified as ‘unexplained’.  

“The proposed CRE has the capacity to establish a sustainable network to engage the experts and produce an effective pipeline from discovery to clinical intervention, leading to measurable changes.”  

MRI-UQ is an alliance between Mater Research and The University of Queensland to achieve the best possible research discoveries in health and medicine. 

Media: Jacqueline Hayes, Mater, (07) 3163 2378, 0422 115 874.