Stepping out for a silent tragedy


Every year, more than 2,000 babies are stillborn in Australia - more than the national road toll.

Stillbirth is the death of a baby after 20 weeks of pregnancy. In Australia, one in 130 pregnancies end in stillbirth and one-third of cases are unexplained.  

While the rate of infant death has decreased, the rate of stillbirth has not and is a tragedy devastating families.   

Complications from premature birth also remains the leading cause of death for children under five worldwide. A premature birth is when a baby is born after less than 37 weeks. 

The earlier a baby is born, the higher the risk of death or health problems. Premature babies have increased risks of conditions like lung disease, cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, vision and hearing impairment. 

Increasing rates of premature birth is a cause for concern among Australians. Rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity are rising, and these conditions increase the risks of stillbirth and premature birth.

To reduce stillbirth and premature birth, we must study them. We must identify the problems and find solutions. 

For example, small babies are at increased stillbirth risk. The current practice of measuring the mother's abdomen with a tape measure misses about 70 per cent of these babies and ultrasound fails to detect about 40 per cent of small babies. Our research aims to develop a blood test to accurately detect small babies where these other techniques have failed.

For more than 15 years, the Mercy Health Foundation – a leading Australian philanthropic organisation – has also raised funds to improve the care of those in need through research, education and wellbeing programs. 

To mark World Prematurity Day, the Foundation is calling on parents to grab a pram and pound the pavement for Pram Jam, a fundraiser for research to reduce stillbirth and complications from premature birth.

This is not just another walkathon. We're walking together because we cannot stay silent about the deaths of our babies. We are walking to bring mums and bubs safely home.


Dr Teresa MacDonald is an Obstetrics and Gynaecology registrar at the Mercy Hospital for Women and part of Mercy Health Foundation's Pram Jam.

To register or donate, visit


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