OBJECTIVE: Our goal was to determine stillbirth rates in a multisite population-based study in community settings in the developing world.
STUDY DESIGN: Outcomes of all community deliveries in 5 resource-poor countries (Democratic Republic of Congo, Guatemala, India, Zambia, and Pakistan) and in 1 mid-level country (Argentina) were evaluated prospectively over an 18-month period. Births of > 1000 g with no signs of life were defined as stillbirth.
RESULTS: Outcomes of 60,324 deliveries were included. Stillbirth rates ranged from 34 per 1000 in Pakistan to 9 per 1000 births in Argentina. Increased stillbirth rates were associated significantly with lower skilled providers, out-of-hospital births, and low cesarean section rates. Maceration was present in 17.2% of stillbirths.
CONCLUSION: The stillbirth rates among births of > or = 1000 g in these developing countries were substantially higher than reported stillbirth rates in developed countries (3-5/1000 births). Because most developed countries define stillbirth as > or = 20 weeks of gestation or > or = 500 g and because almost one-half of all stillbirths are < 1000 g, the developing/developed country difference is actually larger than apparent from this study. Maceration was uncommon, which indicates that most of the deaths probably occurred during labor. The low rates of physician attendance, hospital delivery, and cesarean section deliveries suggest that stillbirth rates could be reduced by access to higher quality institutional deliveries.