Stillbirth and Maternity services

Information on stillbirth and maternity services. For information on maternity services within your state or territory please refer to your state or territory health service.

Page last updated: 27 August 2019

Stillbirth

Stillbirth 1 is one of the most devastating and profound events that any family is likely to experience. It is often a hidden tragedy that causes significant personal, social and financial consequences for parents and families. In Australia, there are six stillbirths each day, affecting over 2,000 Australian families each year. In over 30 per cent of stillbirth cases, the cause is unknown. There is increasing evidence that stillbirths are preventable and countries around the world including the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland and New Zealand have had success in reducing stillbirth rates.

Senate Inquiry into Stillbirth

On 27 March 2018, the Senate established the Select Committee on Stillbirth Research and Education to inquire into and report on the future of stillbirth research and education in Australia. The Committee tabled its Report on the Parliament of Australia website, which includes 16 recommendations on 4 December 2018.

On 5 December 2018, the Australian Government announced $7.2 million as an initial response to the Senate Select Committee Report on Stillbirth Research and Education to reduce stillbirths: $3 million for stillbirth education and awareness programs, $3 million for stillbirth research through the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) and $1.2 million for research at the University of Melbourne to minimise preventable stillbirth through the use of biomarkers and ultrasound in late pregnancy. The Australian Government also announced that a National Stillbirth Action and Implementation Plan will be developed. Work on this plan is currently under way and is being informed by consultations with key stakeholders.

The Australian Government response was tabled in Parliament on 4 July 2019.

Stillbirth Roundtable

On 12 February 2019, the Australian Government convened a national roundtable with stakeholders to identify national priorities and strategies for reducing stillbirth. A range of individuals and organisations with expertise in stillbirth attended the Roundtable, including health professionals, researchers, representatives from non-government organisations and organisations representing bereaved parents. Further information on the Stillbirth Roundtable, including a list of participants can be accessed in the summary sheet.
PDF version: Summary sheet (PDF 225 KB)
Word version: Summary sheet (Word 25 KB)

Safer Baby Bundle

A major Australian Government-funded initiative that is currently under way involves the national rollout of the Safer Baby Bundle. This evidence based package aims to reduce risk factors for stillbirth and improve clinical management of pregnant women who may be at increased risk of stillbirth. The Safer Baby Bundle is currently being implemented in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria and will be extended to all states and territories. It is jointly funded through a National Health and Medical Research Centre (NHMRC) Partnership project and the Medical Research Future Fund. The evidence-based components of the Safer Baby Bundle are:

1. smoking cessation support;
2. improving awareness and management of women with decreased fetal movements;
3. improving detection and management of impaired fetal growth;
4. provision of maternal safe sleeping advice; and
5. improving decision-making around timing of birth for women with risk factors.

Stillbirth Education and Awareness Programs

The Department of Health is finalising the approach to be taken for the $3 million in funds allocated to the stillbirth education and awareness programs. At the Stillbirth Roundtable, reducing smoking in pregnancy, awareness of fetal movements and side sleeping in pregnancy were identified as important evidence based messages to be included in public awareness campaigns. These messages will be key components of education and awareness programs. More information about this initiative will be available in early 2019-20.

Supporting Parents and Families after Stillbirth

Supporting bereaved parents is a key component of the Australian Government’s approach to stillbirth. The Australian Government is providing $43.9 million from the 2019-20 Budget to support perinatal mental health. This will include support for families experiencing grief following the death of a child. In addition to this, Sands Australia is being funded to deliver an intensive support service to families affected by stillbirth. This will provide support in hospital that will continue when the family returns home.

1 A stillbirth is defined as the birth of a baby who has died any time from 20 weeks into the pregnancy through to the due date of birth. When the length of gestation (pregnancy) is not known, the birth will be considered a stillbirth if the baby weighs 400 grams or more.

National Strategic Approach to Maternity Services

At the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council meeting on 22 September 2017 it was agreed to start a new process to develop a National Strategic Approach to Maternity Services (NSAMS). Members agreed that the work would be led by the Commonwealth and include all jurisdictions in a time limited Project Reference Group (PRG). An Advisory Group (AG) has also been established to provide advice to the PRG.

The second round of consultations for the development of the National Strategic Approach to NSAMS has finished.

A total of 480 people attended the face to face workshops, conference presentations and webinars. Over 200 online submissions were received. Twenty five organisations made submissions.

The majority of responders said the document was appropriate and easy to follow and the strategic directions were very realistic or realistic.

Work is now continuing to consider all the feedback provided in order to finalise the strategy and develop an associated implementation, monitoring and evaluation framework.

The work will be finished by no later than 30 June 2019.
Project Reference Group - Communique 1 (PDF 308 KB)
Project Reference Group - Communique 1 (Word 17 KB)

Project Reference Group - Communique 2 (PDF 232 KB)
Project Reference Group - Communique 2 (Word 21 KB)

Advisory Group - Communique 1 (PDF 234 KB)
Advisory Group - Communique 1 (Word 22 KB)

Published Responses Round two

As a part of the NSAMS consultation process consumers, health professionals and organisations were invited to make submissions and complete an online survey in response to a draft paper Strategic Directions for Australian Maternity Services. This consultation paper closed in November 2018.

The opinions expressed in the survey and submissions are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Project Reference Group, Advisory Group, the Department of Health or the Government.

Only answers from respondents who gave permission are published. However, all responses were included in the analysis of responses to this consultation.

Report of the 2018 Online Survey on the Draft National Strategic Directions for Maternity Care (PDF 986 KB)
Report of the 2018 Online Survey on the Draft National Strategic Directions for Maternity Care (Word 419 KB)

Strategic Directions for Australian Maternity Services Submissions Round Two (Zip 9021 KB)

ABTA
ACM
ACN
ACRRM
AMA
ANMF
APS
ANZCA and FPM
Bayes
CHA
Cheong
Dietz
Kelly
Maternity Consumer Network
Monash University School of Nursing and Midwifery
Professor of Medicine
RACGP
RACP
RDAA
Rio
Safe Motherhood for All
Trueman
WHA
Wilson

Published Responses Round one

As a part of the National Strategic Approach to Maternity Services (NSAMS) consultation process consumers, health professionals and organisations were asked to put forward submissions in response to a consultation paper seeking input on the development of a NSAMS. This consultation paper closed in June 2018.

The opinions expressed in the submissions are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Project Reference Group, Advisory Group, the Department of Health or the Government.

Only answers from respondents who gave permission are published. However, all responses were included in the analysis of responses to this consultation.
National Strategic Approach to Maternity Services consultation submissions A to G (Zip 13442 KB)
National Strategic Approach to Maternity Services consultation submissions H to Q (Zip 22611 KB)
National Strategic Approach to Maternity Services consultation submissions R to Y (Zip 10377 KB)

Allen.
Alpine Health.
Anonymous consumer.
Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Associations.
Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists.
Australian Breastfeeding Association.
Australian Christian Lobby.
Australian College of Midwives Victorian Branch.
Australian College of Midwives
Australian College of Nursing.
Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine.
Australian Medical Association.
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation.
Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association.
Australian Psychological Society.
Barbosa.
Barclay.
Barnett.
Barrett.
Becoming Us.
Begnell.
Bell.
Bendigo Health.
Bernauer.
Better Births Illawarra.
Boweles.
Bowey.
Boyes.
Brennan.
Burns.
Burns2.
Buzzacott.
Cadman.
Carling-Jenkins.
Carling-Jenkins.
Caroline Chisholm Society Pregnancy and Family Support Service.
CATSINAM.
Central Australian Aboriginal Congress.
Centre for Midwifery Child and Family Health University of Technology Sydney.
Cheong.
Coggins.
Cole.
Collins.
Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait.
Cooper.
Cosgriff.
Coulter.
CRANAplus.
Cusack.
Dalton.
Dann.
Darwin Homebirth Group.
Dept Nursing and Midwifery Education and Research King Edward Memorial Hospital WA.
Deys.
Dietsch.
Dietz.
Donnellan.
Donnolley
Downer.
Doyle.
Dyson.
Edith Cowan University.
Ekin.
Fahy.
Family Planning NSW.
Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia.
Flannery.
Forster.
Gale.
GARVAN.
George.
Giltrap.
Grace.
Green M.
Griffith University.
Grimes.
Haintz.
Hammond.
Harrower.
Hastie.
Hawley.
Heenan.
Hermel.
Hocking.
Hodge.
Homebirth Consortium Australia.
Human Rights in Childbirth.
Hunter New England Local Health District.
Icim.
Ireland.
Jenkinson.
Jones.
Jorgensen.
Karitane.
Kearns.
Keedle.
Kelly.
Kemp.
Keyes.
Kildea.
Kokott.
Kruger.
La Trobe University School of Nursing and Midwifery.
Landeesse.
Langer.
Lee.
Levin.
M.Cooper.
Manley.
Marcia McI.
MARNES.
Marymead.
Maternity Choices Australia.
Maternity care in Australia Web
MATERNITY CONSUMER NETWORK.
McCelland.
McKellar.
McKinlay.
McLean.
Melbourne Midwifery Society.
Mendelssohn.
Migrant Resource Centre Tasmania.
Monash Health.
Morrow.
Mowbray.
My Midwives.
National Mental Health Commission.
NSAMS Submission 1.
NSAMS Submission 2.
NSAMS Submission 3.
NSAMS Submission 4.
NSAMS Submission 5.
Nursing and Midwifery Council of NSW.
OBrien.
Oldmeadow.
Ormond.
Palmer.
Parkinson.
Pashin.
Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia.
Phoenix Centre.
Powell.
Presented by Health Consumers Council WA.
Private Healthcare Australia.
Public Health Association of Australia.
Quinn.
Reed.
Rehnelt.
Rezannah.
Rio.
Robertson.
Royal Australasian College of Physicians.
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.
Ruifrok.
Rural Doctors Association of Australia.
Rural Doctors Association of Tasmania.
Ryder.
Safe Sleep Space.
Safemotherhoodforall.
School of Nursing and Midwifery La Trobe University.
Scott.
Shaw.
Sidebotham.
Sing.
Slootjes.
Smits.
Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia.
Soroptimist International Moreton North Inc.
St John of God Health Care Social Outreach.
Stafford.
Sterry.
Student Homebirth Midwife Collective.
TAYLOR.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists.
The Discipline of Midwifery Faculty of Health University of Canberra.
The Midwife Collective.PDF
The Victorian Foundation for Survivors of trauma Mothers Healthy Families Research Group, Murdoch Childrens Research Institue.
Tracy.
Tumut Hospital Midwives.
University of Canberra.
University of South Australia Mothers Babies and Families research group.
University of the Sunshine Coast.
Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.
Western Health Womens and Childrens Services Sunshine Hospital Victoria.
White.
Wilson.
Wimmera Health Care Group.
Womens Centre for Health Matters.
Womens Healthcare Australasia.

National Maternity Services Plan

The National Maternity Services Plan provided a strategic framework to guide policy and program development over five years from 2010 to 2015, but was subsequently extended for a further year until 30 June 2016 to enable work to continue on uncompleted actions. It identified actions under four priority areas (Access, Service Delivery, Workforce and Infrastructure) to improve women’s access to maternity services and service delivery.

National Maternity Services Plan documentation, including the original National Maternity Services Plan 2010, the annual reports and other policy documents, can be found on the Maternity Services Publications page.

Pregnancy Care Guidelines

The Clinical Practice Guidelines - Pregnancy Care Guidelines (Pregnancy Care Guidelines), formerly known as the Clinical Practice Guidelines – Antenatal Care (Antenatal Care Guidelines).

National Perinatal Data Collection

Since 2011, the Australian Government has funded the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) to develop a nationally consistent and comprehensive maternal and perinatal mortality and morbidity data collection in Australia. An overview of Australian national and jurisdictional data collections relevant to maternal and perinatal health can be found at the Maternity Information Matrix.

The AIHW reports key statistics and trends on pregnancy and childbirth of mothers, and the characteristics and outcomes of their babies. The AIHW is also responsible for the national reporting of maternal and perinatal mortality, and it is the designated Australian WHO focal point for maternal mortality. Maternal and perinatal data publications can be accessed from the AIHW website.

Pregnancy, Birth and Baby website and helpline

The Australian Government funds Pregnancy, Birth and Baby, a free 7 days a week (7am to 12pm midnight AET) national helpline, video and website service providing access to information, guidance and support for women, partners and their families in relation to pregnancy, birth and the first 5 years of a baby’s life. Call 1800 882 4361 or visit their website.

When you phone or use the video call you will speak to a maternal child health nurse. Our maternal child health nurses work with parents to ensure the health and wellbeing of their children and family, providing guidance on children’s growth, behaviour and development and refer parents to local services.

The Pregnancy, Birth and Baby helpline is available to all Australians, including people living in rural and remote areas. People with a disability and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds can access the helpline through the National Relay Service and the Translating and Interpreting Service.

Callers experiencing perinatal depression or grief following miscarriage, stillbirth or the loss of a baby may be referred to targeted telephone-based peer support services, including SIDS and Kids, Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Association (PANDA) and Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Support (SANDS) Australia.

Medicare information for midwives

Link to Medicare information page for midwives and nurse practitioners
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