Researcher spotlight: my vision for a future with zero stillbirth

Research Fellow Dr Maryam Mozooni is passionate about reducing the impact of stillbirth for migrant women in Australia, and raising public health awareness.

Her vision is for a future in which zero preventable stillbirth occurs and all people affected by stillbirth feel heard, understood and supported.

This is Maryam’s story.

Maryam cropped
Stillbirth research fellow Dr Maryam Mazooni

As a General Practitioner and infertility consultant in Iran, Maryam and her husband immigrated to Australia when she was 35 weeks’ pregnant with her first child.

“I am a researcher at the University of Western Australia and I’m interested in investigating the reproductive outcomes of migrant and ethnic minority populations in Australia.

“My husband and I immigrated to Australia as skilled migrants ten years ago, when I was 35 weeks pregnant with my first child.

“This gave me the opportunity to understand and experience first-hand some of the circumstances and difficulties migrant women, especially those from Culturally And Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds, are faced with while navigating the Australian healthcare system.

“I hold a medical doctorate from Iran and worked as a GP and an infertility consultant back there. When I first arrived in Australia I undertook a PhD in Public Health and Obstetrics & Gynaecology.

“That is how I became interested to investigate the relationship between ethnicity and migrant status with adverse pregnancy outcomes, including stillbirth, and undertook my PhD study on this topic at University of Western Australia.”

The high toll of stillbirth on our communities

“Our research looked at all non-Indigenous birth in Western Australia from 2005-2013. What this showed was that stillbirth was more frequent among women with non-white backgrounds born overseas, particularly those with African or Indian backgrounds, than for Australian-born women.

“Also, for the first time we showed that the rate of pre-term stillbirth before labour started was higher among migrants of Māori background compared to Australian-born women.

“Furthermore, for the first time in Australia, we showed that about 24 per cent of stillbirths happened during childbirth, which is considered preventable with good obstetric care, mostly
among African women and women from “other” non-white backgrounds.”

Thanks to Red Nose funding, we are delving deeper

“What we found raised concerns about the quality of care received at the time of birth in these women and warranted further investigation for potential influential factors. Thanks to
Red Nose, we have extended our investigation to study the effect of acculturation on risk of stillbirth in migrants but those results are not published yet.”

The need to continue funding research

“Evidence suggests migrants are more likely to experience traumatic life events before, during and after migration. This is why migrant-status has been suggested as a vulnerability.

“However, migrant populations have been shown to be generally healthier than the native-born population in the host countries - most probably due to the selective process of migration,
therefore we need to identify the factors that are influencing the increased risk of stillbirth. This is vital to address this tragedy.

By supporting Red Nose, you are supporting Australian communities

“Pregnant women who have migrated to Australia are unfamiliar with our healthcare system, and in my opinion, this is an important contributing factors to the disparities observed. Communication barriers make this even more complicated.

“Also, migrant women do not possess the social support networks that naturally form during the course of living and growing up in the land they were born in. Moreover, culture and
developed health habits that influence health choices may also be contributing to the issue.

“It’s important to keep raising awareness through community-wide campaigns, education and empowerment to make sure these women are doing everything they can to reduce their risk.

I hope for a future in which zero preventable stillbirth occurs and all affected by stillbirth feel heard, understood and supported. Migrant families are a growing population and currently make up around 50% of the Australian population.

“I hope for a future in which no one is left behind!“

Dr Maryam Mozooni is a Research Fellow with the University of Western Australia. She is part of the research team undertaking Red Nose-funded research into the effect of migration and acculturation on risk of stillbirth in Western Australia. Dr Mozooni is also the recipient of a University of Western Australia Research Impact Grant for 2019. This has allowed her to begin engaging with healthcare providers and community members in WA to raise awareness about these research findings and strategies to reduce stillbirth rates for migrant women. Dr Mozooni also undertakes advocacy and volunteer work in this field, and hopes to collaborate nationally and globally to continue contributing to reducing the heartbreak of stillbirth for families and communities.

Supporting Red Nose helps fund research that is making a real difference for Australian communities. Find out how you can help stop little lives being cut short.

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