New Federal support to ensure more healthy pregnancies in Australia

Monday 11 March 2019

Mater researcher and Director of the Stillbirth Centre for Research Excellence (CRE) Professor Vicki Flenady has been awarded $1.3 million through the Federal Government’s maternity bundle of care funding.

Funded through the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), the grant will work to deliver better support to pregnant women and ensure more healthy births.

Professor Flenady welcomed the funding which she said will address the gap between what is known and what is done in maternity care.

“Stillbirth is a serious public health problem with far reaching psychosocial and financial burden for families,” Professor Flenady said.

“There has been little improvement in rates for over two decades with six Australian babies stillborn each day.  For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and disadvantaged women, stillbirth rates are doubled.”

“Priorities for prevention are clear.  This is all about upscaling elements of care that are well-accepted practices in stillbirth prevention, but due to lack of focused attention there are significant gaps,” Professor Flenady said.

“Our aim is to bridge these gaps by ensuring clinicians, women, their partners and their support networks in the community are aware of the importance of these elements and steps they can take to reduce the risk.”

Professor Flenady said that a widespread introduction of a ‘bundle of care’ had proven to be effective and efficient to decrease the gap in the UK and that a similar process should be implemented in Australia.

The maternity bundle of care will work to reduce the stillbirth rate by improving routine clinical care around five key elements of maternity care:

  • detection and management of fetal growth restriction
  • awareness and management of decreased fetal movement
  • support for women to stop smoking
  • awareness of maternal safe sleeping position
  • decision-making around timing of birth for women with risk factors.

The funding will allow implementation and evaluation of the ‘bundle of care’ in partnership with health departments of New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland and key stillbirth advocacy organisations, the Stillbirth Foundation Australia and Still Aware.

“This project will reach more than 50 per cent of births in Australia and we hypothesise at least a 20 per cent reduction in stillbirths after 28 weeks’ gestation, saving the lives of over 100 babies each year and their families the despair of loss,” Professor Flenady said.

“If effective and scaled-up across Australia, over 200 lives each year could be saved.  Other important outcomes include a reduction in other adverse neonatal outcomes and improvement in women’s experience of care.”

Stillbirth Foundation Australia CEO, Kate Lynch, said the bundle of care will work to save more lives and ensure families get the information they need, when they need it most.

“At the moment, there are key things about the stillbirth that we are simply not telling expectant mothers, this package will start to change that,” Ms Lynch said.

Ms Lynch said that by better communicating with families about the risks of stillbirths we can ensure more healthy pregnancies in Australia.

“In the past there has been too much inconsistency in the delivery of this vital information, but by standardising these elements of maternity care we can improve this for families into the future.”

To learn more about the Stillbirth CRE visit: