Tracey Mills – reducing stillbirth in sub-Saharan Africa

Dr Tracey Mills at The University of Manchester, awarded £19,378: Parents’ and health-workers’ experiences of care and support after stillbirth in Kenya: A qualitative exploratory study

The prevalence of stillbirth

“Despite other improvements in health the number of babies dying before or during childbirth around the world is unacceptably high,” Dr Mills said.

About 2.6 million stillbirths occurred during 2015, 64% of which occurred in sub-Saharan Africa.

Stillbirth is a traumatic event for parents with long lasting impacts on physical and mental health of families. Preventing stillbirths is a key target for international action.

“Improving maternity and general healthcare to prevent babies dying is vital, but it is also imperative that appropriate and sensitive support is provided to parents whose baby dies.”

Parents of stillbirths do not always receive the support they need. Poor healthcare after stillbirth impair recovery and adjustment. This can reduce a parent’s ability to care for their remaining children and increase the risk of serious mental health problems.

“All parents, wherever they live, have a right to expect basic humane and respectful care after the death of a baby.”

“At present we know very little about the quality of care or support received in low resource settings where the overwhelming burden of stillbirths falls.”

Using real stories to gain insights

Mills’ study will be the first of its kind in exploring parents’ and health workers’ experiences of care after stillbirth in Kenya.

Mills plans to interview women and their partners whose baby has died and health professionals who provide care after stillbirth in two large hospitals in Nairobi.

“Interviews will reveal the important issues and themes, capturing experiences of care and provide insight into parents’ needs and areas for development in current service and professional’s knowledge and skills education.”

Their findings will be used to support the development of new means of providing care or training for midwives, nurse and doctors. The effectiveness of these means will then be tested in clinical trials.