Mama Ye Factsheet on Stillbirths in Tanzania 2014

Packaging Evidence
Find out what is a stillbirth, why is it a public health crisis in Tanzania and what can be done.

To mark World Prematurity Day on 17 November 2014 Mama Ye! produced this factsheet on stillbirths in Tanzania. It summarises the latest evidence on stillbirths, including interventions.

What is a Stillbirth?

A stillbirth is a baby that is born with no signs of life, weighing more than 1000 grams or with more than 28 completed weeks of gestation.

The major causes of stillbirth include:

  • Complications during delivery
  • Maternal infections and disorders in pregnancy (malaria, syphilis, HIV, diabetes, hypertension)
  • Fetal growth restriction
  • Congenital abnormalities

Around half of all stillbirths happen during labour, called an intrapartum stillbirth, and the majority could be prevented with quality care around the time of birth from a skilled and competent health provider.

Intrapartum stillbirth rates are a measure of the quality of care at birth, although in many contexts there is a failure to adequately record pregnancy outcomes, especially if women do not deliver in a health facility.

Stillbirths are a public health crisis in Tanzania

Around 47,000 babies are stillborn each year in Tanzania, the ninth highest number of stillbirths globally. Almost half of these stillbirths (22,000) happen during delivery, indicating a critical need for better quality of care around birth.

Much more attention is needed to address the burden of stillbirths, through investments and interventions with additional mutual benefit for many newborns and mothers.

What can be done in Tanzania?

Ending preventable stillbirths requires investing in and strengthening health services and obstetric care, through interventions that often overlap with those that benefit mothers and newborns, as well as ensuring there are skilled and equipped health workers to assist with every delivery.

Specific steps to reduce stillbirths are:

  • Strengthening quality of care at birth, including increasing the proportion of women delivering with a skilled health worker, and ensuring availability of comprehensive emergency obstetric care
  • Scaling up basic newborn resuscitation initiatives (Helping Babies Breathe) for babies that are not breathing at birth – one Helping Babies Breathe study in Tanzania appears to show a reduction of one in four (24%) intrapartum stillbirths
  • Ensuring each mother attends four antenatal visits for detection and management of complications, infections and disorders during pregnancy, and for identification and induction of labour in pregnancies over 41 weeks gestation
  • Malaria prevention interventions

In 2014, Tanzania committed to the Every Newborn Action Plan and the Sharpened One Plan. These strategies set out the priority solutions, and call for a united effort to dramatically reduce preventable stillbirths and maternal and newborn deaths.

We must prioritise the evidence-based, cost-effective and feasible solutions in all health facilities that provide pregnancy and delivery services, as well as ensure better data collection on pregnancy outcomes to enable responsive action where it is most needed.

Learn about preterm birth and take action!

Evidence for Action. (2014). Mama Ye Factsheet on Stillbirths in Tanzania 2014. London: Evidence for Action.
Stillbirths in Tanzania 2014