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Stillbirth risk double in South Asian women

Women born in South Asian countries including India and Pakistan have more than double the risk of a stillbirth compared to locally-born women.

A study carried out at three Melbourne public hospitals between 2001 and 2011 found women from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh had a stillbirth rate 2.4 times higher than Australian-born women and 3.4 times greater than women born in East and South East Asia.

In total, there were 75 stillbirths from 44,326 single births over the 10 year period, Southern Health and Monash University researchers found.

Of 28,380 births to Australian-born women, 42 infants were stillborn, compared to 23 of 6471 births to South Asian born women.

Recent studies from the UK and the Netherlands showed South Asian women had an 80 per cent higher risk of stillbirth than white women.

While an explanation is unclear, one key difference was the low birth weight of babies born to women from South Asia, which was nearly twice the rate of other women.

The risk of stillbirth in South Asian women increased as gestation progressed between 37 and 41 weeks, when there was an almost fivefold increase.

Professor Euan Wallace, Southern Health's director of obstetric services, said it may be time to consider intervening to induce pregnancy earlier in this group of women.

He said researchers were beginning to question whether women of South Asian origin reach full term at 38 weeks pregnant.

Stillbirth rates among women born in other parts of Asia, including Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, China and Japan, were similar to those of Australian-born women.

Wallace said hormone markers could potentially be measured in women of different ethnicity to determine whether their hormone profiles varied.

If the profiles were different, the next step would be to undertake a clinical trial investigating whether inducing labour in these women was associated with better outcomes for both mother and baby.


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