The Australian government released their Report on Stillbirth Research and Education last month. It is a lengthy document, with 187 pages of research summaries, testimonies, and recommendations. The goal? To reduce the number of stillbirths and improve care to women and their families when they experience a stillbirth.
While there was no specific focus on pregnancy after a loss, one aspect of the report was to highlight how much a pregnancy after loss costs. This matters because funders (the government in the case of single-payer countries or insurance companies in the United States) are motivated to reduce expenses. Due to higher costs for counseling and additional testing, subsequent pregnancies cost the Australian government an estimated $10.5 million AUD over a 5 year period.
This is cold comfort, of course, if you’re currently pregnant after a loss. Having to bear the additional financial costs of a high-risk pregnancy seems like a small thing to worry about. You’re already worrying about so much! But the reality of health economics means this does matter. It’s another unfair charge when you’re already hurting. And this doesn’t include things like additional time off work (to go to doctor’s appointments) or the intangible costs of chronic stress.
The government’s goal is to reduce the number of stillbirths by 20% in three years. 500 babies a year that could be saved through these initiatives. Another 500 mothers will be spared the stress and cost of a pregnancy after a loss. And its thousands of fathers, brothers, sisters, and grandparents who will not have to endure the pain and suffering stillbirth brings to them too.
The full recommendations:
- Provide paid leave for employees who have experienced stillbirth (suggestion of 6 weeks for 2nd-trimester loss and 16 weeks for 3rd-trimester losses).
- National data collection on stillbirth – How many are happening? Where? Why? To whom?
- Government funding or insurance should cover stillbirth autopsies.
- More people must learn perinatal pathology, to perform stillbirth autopsies.
- Set research funding priorities for stillbirth.
- Review the current research funding for stillbirth.
- Create a national biobank for placenta research. The placenta plays such an important role, how can we know so little about it!?!
- Originate national culturally and linguistically appropriate continuity of care model, with a focus on high-risk groups such as immigrants and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, who have higher rates of stillbirth.
- Develop national best practice guidelines for hospitals and health centers on providing stillbirth support that includes extended family. Siblings and grandparents are hurting too!
- A public awareness campaign on stillbirth needs to happen. Every pregnant woman needs to know the risks, the signs and how to prevent stillbirth.
- Educate health care providers, so they can provide the best care for women who experience stillbirth.
- Best practice guidelines for perinatal autopsies are essential.
- Start a publicly accessible register of research into stillbirth and guidelines for best practice.
- Educate the public on how to support bereaved parents. Everyone needs to know how to support their friends, family, and coworkers.
- Create a National Stillbirth Action Plan aiming to reduce stillbirth rates by 20% in three years.
- Annual progress on the National Stillbirth Action Plan should be made public.