New Delhi: More than 7,200 stillborn babies are reported everyday across the globe, 68 per cent of them are from just 10 countries including India, China and Bangladesh, according to The Lancet Stillbirth Series, a medical journal.

With 98 per cent of the stillborns occurring in low and middle-income countries, high-income countries are not immune, as one in 320 babies there are born stillborn, the medical report says.

The new estimates show that the number of stillbirths worldwide has declined by only 1.1 per cent per year, from 3 million in 1995 to 2.6 million in 2009.

The stillbirth rate varies sharply by country, from the lowest rates of two per 1,000 births in Finland and Singapore and 2.2 per 1 000, births in Denmark and Norway, to highs of 47 in Pakistan and 42 in Nigeria, 36 in Bangladesh, and 34 in Djibouti and Senegal.

It is estimated that 66 per cent some 1.8 million stillbirths occur in just 10 countries - India, Pakistan, Nigeria, China, Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Afghanistan and the United Republic of Tanzania.

Childbirth complication prime cause

According to the report, the childbirth complications, maternal infections in pregnancy, maternal disorders (especially hypertension and diabetes), fetal growth restriction and congenital abnormalities are five prime causes behind stillbirth.

Almost half of all stillbirths, 1.2 million, happen when the woman is in labour. These deaths are directly related to the lack of skilled care at this critical time for mothers and babies.

Two-thirds happen in rural areas, where skilled birth attendants in particular midwives and physicians are not always available for essential care during childbirth and for obstetric emergencies, including caesarean sections.

Rates also vary widely within countries. In India, for example, rates range from 20 to 66 per 1,000 births in different states.

Need to strengthen maternal health

The series shows that the way to address the problem of stillbirth is to strengthen existing maternal, newborn, and child health programmes by focusing on key interventions, which also have benefits for mothers and newborns.

According to an analysis to which WHO contributed in The Lancet Stillbirth Series, as many as 1.1 million stillbirths could be averted with universal coverage of the interventions.

Strengthening family planning services would also save lives by reducing the numbers of unintended pregnancies, especially among high-risk women, and thereby reduce stillbirths.

"If every woman had access to a skilled birth attendant, a midwife, and if necessary a physician for both essential care and for procedures such as emergency caesarean sections, we would see a dramatic decrease in the number of stillbirths," says Dr Carole Presern, Director of The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH), and a trained midwife.