Alarmingly, stillbirths account for 71% of all sudden and unexpected babies’ deaths in Australia1. These deaths, defined from 20 weeks in pregnancy, are devastating to parents and their families, so with Red Nose’s aim to reduce infant death rates, stillbirth has now become a core focus of the organisation’s research agenda for 2017.
Ahead of Red Nose Day on Friday June 30, an annual day dedicated to raising critical funding and awareness for its world-class research, education and bereavement support programs - Red Nose are proud to announce they are working to reduce this startling rate with two new projects relating to stillbirth research commencing this year. With Red Nose’s success in decreasing the rate of sudden unexpected deaths in infancy (SUDI) by 80% since introducing the safe sleeping program in 1990, the organisation is extremely well positioned to contribute to significant reductions in stillbirth rates in Australia.
The most recently announced project, Preventing Term Stillbirth in South Asian Born Mothers, was one of the successful applications in Red Nose’s new research grant which saw the organisation take a more proactive approach to research last year, inviting research submissions in late 2016. This particular project aims to demonstrate the effectiveness of earlier post-term surveillance during pregnancy of South Asian born women – predominantly Indian, Sri Lankan and Pakistani women, who have a stillbirth rate twice that of both Anglo-Saxon and Chinese born Australian women.
The research team, led by Dr. Miranda Davies-Tuck of Hudson Institute of Medical Research, has evidence to demonstrate that “post-term” should be defined from 39 weeks rather than 41 weeks in South Asian born women, and that if surveillance commences at this earlier stage of pregnancy, the rate of stillbirth in late gestation will decrease.
Along with another successful project in the grant titled The effect of migration and acculturation on risk of stillbirth in Western Australia, Red Nose are contributing $199,005 to research into stillbirth in 2017 - expected to have a direct implication in saving Australian babies’ lives lead by Associate Professor Craig Pennell.
Of the research, Dr. Miranda Davies-Tuck says: “In recent years, the rate of stillbirth – particularly in vulnerable communities here in Australia, has not dramatically reduced, despite advances made in perinatal medicine. The trauma that families experience from these deaths is heartbreaking, and we believe that it’s something that we can stop, so the potential value of this new research in the prevention of stillbirth is immense.
“Over the next two to three years, we eagerly await the results of our research efforts and how these learnings can be applied to reduce infant mortality, both for the sake of Australian families, and those around the world.”
The impact stillbirth has on a family is debilitating, as Amanda Robinson from Geelong, Victoria experienced when she sadly lost her son Hunter Jack Mckiernan in 2012.
Of her son’s death, Amanda says: “The 21st of June, 2012 is a day that I will never forget. I was 29 weeks and one day pregnant, and I had a midwife appointment. She couldn’t find a heartbeat.
Amanda continues: “I was sent to the hospital for a scan and just couldn’t look at the screen as I knew that it would show no heartbeat. A few minutes later, I heard the dreaded few words ‘I’m sorry to say, but….’ I never knew what the rest of that sentence was. That same day they induced labour.
“At 10:30am on the 22nd of June 2012 my beautiful and precious Hunter Jack entered into this world ever so silently and peacefully sleeping. He weighed in at 620grams and had a head of dark hair.
“A week later we had a funeral for our sweet little boy and laid him to rest with about 100 friends and family.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t ever think of my precious little man – I visit him all the time including every Christmas and his every birthday, and take him balloons, presents and cake.
“Red Nose offered, and continue to offer, incredible support for our grieving process – We couldn’t have got through this experience without them. It’s so encouraging to hear about their focus on stillbirth research for 2017. If these findings can prevent even one family having to go through what we went through, I believe this research is of remarkable value.”
Professor Paul Colditz, Red Nose Board Member, Professor of Perinatal Medicine at the University of Queensland and Director of the Perinatal Research Centre adds: “As we head into Red Nose Day this Friday June 30th, these alarming stillbirth figures and resulting projects we’ve funded are a great opportunity to highlight how critical support from the Australian public is in achieving Red Nose’s goals.
“Funds raised through Red Nose Day enable us to contribute to vital research in the most crucial areas of sudden and unexpected death, such as stillbirth, supporting us in our mission to reduce the number of Australian children’s deaths per day from nine to zero.”
Celebrating its 29th year on June 30, 2017, Red Nose Day is fundamental in highlighting the devastating fact that each year in Australia over 3,200 babies and children die suddenly and unexpectedly - with causes including stillbirth, SIDS and fatal sleep accidents.
Red Nose relies on public support of Red Nose Day to help fund its life-saving research projects as well as education and bereavement support programs. Australians can get involved this year by purchasing a red nose or other Red Nose Day product, making a donation, hosting a children’s fundraising disco or setting up an online fundraising page. Visit www.rednoseday.com.au to learn more.
For further information on Red Nose’s research projects, go to: https://rednose.org.au/section/advocacy-and-research
 ABS Causes of death 2014, AIHW: Australia’s Mothers and Babies 2014
About The Red Nose Research Grant:
In June 2016, Red Nose launched the inaugural Research Grant. Universities and other research institutions were invited to apply for funding opportunities through the grant, with projects ranging from 1-3 years in duration and up to AU$190,000 (NZ$200,000) encouraged.
Applications underwent a thorough review by the Red Nose Research Review Committee, which included Professor Rosemary Horne - Deputy Director, The Ritchie Centre, Monash University, Professor Paul Colditz – Foundation Professor of Perinatal Medicine, Director of the Perinatal Research Centre, University of Queensland (NHMRC Practitioner Fellow), and Professor Heather Jeffery – Senior Staff Specialist, International Maternal & Child Health, School of Public Health, University of Sydney.
Criteria taken into consideration included scientific excellence, potential of the proposed research, adequacy of experimental design, applicant’s training and experience, originality of project, appreciation of methodological problems, and value for money.
The following two applications relating to stillbirth research were successful, with each commencing in 2017:
Project: The effect of migration and acculturation on risk of stillbirth in Western Australia
Duration: Two years
Leader: Associate Professor Craig Pennell
Team: Dr Maryam Mozooni; Professor David Preen
Institute: The University of Western Australia
Project Details: Investigate the effect of country of birth and acculturation on the risk of stillbirth in WA. Due to the depth and breadth of linked registries, this project has an unprecedented ability to identify factors influencing the rate of stillbirth; this will inform public health policy and development of strategies for the prevention of stillbirth.
Project: Preventing Term Stillbirth in South Asian Born Mothers: A stepped wedge cluster randomised controlled trial
Duration: Two and a half years
Leader: Dr. Miranda Davies-Tuck
Team: Professor Euan Wallace; Dr. Mary-Ann Davey
Institute: The Hudson Institute Medical Research, The Ritchie Centre
Project Details: Built on a solid foundation of epidemiological and clinical data, the aim is to demonstrate the effectiveness of “earlier post-term surveillance” in pregnancy for South Asian born women. Informed by their previous work, the team have evidence to demonstrate that “post-term” should be defined earlier, from 39 weeks rather than 41 weeks in South Asian born women and that routine “post term surveillance” should commence at this time. In doing so, the rate of stillbirth in late gestation will decrease.
For further information, go to: https://rednose.org.au/research/archive/C91
About Red Nose:
In October 2016, SIDS and Kids launched its new name, Red Nose, and a new remit – to reduce the incidence of sudden and unexpected death in babies and children in Australia to zero.
Red Nose provides vital safe sleeping education to expectant mothers, their families and healthcare professionals all around Australia. They also conduct world-class research into sudden and unexpected death in infancy and provide crucial bereavement support to those affected by the death of a baby or child, receiving more than 10,000 calls for support and education every year.
Since Red Nose’s inception, over $16.7 million has been devoted into researching stillbirth, neonatal death, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and other causes that contribute to the 3,200 unexpected infant deaths that devastate Australian families each year.