The public awareness of stillbirth: an Irish population study

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Objective: To evaluate the general population's awareness of stillbirth. Design: A cross-sectional telephone population survey. Setting: A nationally representative sample of the Irish adult population. Sample: In all, 999 members of the Irish population were selected by random digit dialling. Methods: Data were analysed using descriptive and inferential statistics. Binary logistic regression was used to assess the odds of identifying risk factors for stillbirth. Main outcome measures: Public knowledge of incidence, risk factors, causes and social awareness about stillbirth. Results: Only a minority, 17%, of respondents correctly identified the incidence of stillbirth. Men and those aged over 45 years were more likely to say they did not know when a stillbirth occurs. Over half, 56% of respondents were unable to identify any stillbirth risk factors. Half of respondents, 53%, believed that the cause of stillbirth was due to a problem with the baby, 39% a problem with the mother, while 31% believed stillbirth occurred as a result of the care provided to the mother. The majority, 79%, believed that all stillbirths should be medically investigated, although women were more likely to suggest this (82% versus 76.4%; P = 0.043). Stillbirth had been represented in traditional and online media for 75% of respondents and 54% said they personally knew someone who had a stillbirth. Conclusions: There is a lack of public knowledge concerning the incidence, risk factors and causes of stillbirth. Improved public health initiatives and antenatal education are warranted to increase awareness of stillbirth risk factors and to improve care and monitoring during pregnancy. Tweetable abstract: Irish population study shows low public awareness of stillbirth incidence, risk factors and causes. Plain Language Summary: This study aimed to find out what the general public know about the risk factors associated with stillbirth and whether stillbirth can be prevented. Many stillbirth risk factors can be identified and when they are, healthcare professionals can monitor pregnancy and hopefully reduce the possibility of a baby dying before birth. A sample of 999 people from the Irish population was surveyed by a professional telephone polling company for this study. The results of this study found that most people did not know how common stillbirth was and also believed that only a minority could be prevented. Most people were not able to identify any risk factors that can lead to stillbirth. Most people knew someone who had had a stillbirth and likewise most people believed that all stillbirths should be investigated to find a cause. It is possible that some people do not know the difference between stillbirth and miscarriage and this question was not asked in this study. Six people did not complete the interview as the topic of stillbirth was too sensitive. It is possible that these people had experienced a stillbirth themselves and so their results are not included. This study highlights the importance of increasing public awareness about stillbirth by providing clear information to women and their partners that there are risk factors associated with stillbirth that can be identified and monitored. The results of this study suggest that these risk factors could be highlighted in antenatal preparation classes and public health campaigns.




Nuzum, D., Meaney, S., & O’Donoghue, K. (2018). The public awareness of stillbirth: an Irish population study. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 125(2), 246–252.

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