Federal government makes a major move to help lower stillbirth rates

In Cameron's memory: Nadine and Graham Belfield's first son was stillborn. Since their tragedy, the couple has been raising awareness and funding to support other families.
In Cameron's memory: Nadine and Graham Belfield's first son was stillborn. Since their tragedy, the couple has been raising awareness and funding to support other families.

An Alfords Point couple who lost their first son to stillbirth has welcomed the federal government's funding boost to help support other grieving families.

It was 2011 when life changed forever for Nadine and Graham Belfield.

What started as a normal pregnancy turned to undescribable loss, at a stage that is usually considered way past the 'safe' period.

Cameron was stillborn at 38 and a half weeks - a complete shock to the Belfields.

"Cameron was a our first baby," Mrs Belfied said. "We got passed the 12 week check, it was all smooth sailing, there was nothing to indicate there was something wrong.

"Then I noticed a decrease in movement, and thought we were just being over cautious first-time parents, but when we went to hospital to check, there was no heartbeat. I was induced and delivered."

The cause was a silent placental abruption, where the placenta comes away from the lining of the womb, but creates no bleeding.

The couple has since had two other healthy children, Mitchell, 7, and Brianna, 4. But both were closely monitored, and had to be delivered early.

In memory of baby Cameron, they established the annual Sydney 2 CAMberra organisation, which raises money for greater awareness of stillbirth.

Riding for Cam: The Belfield family during the annual charity ride, Sydney to CAMberra in April this year.

Riding for Cam: The Belfield family during the annual charity ride, Sydney to CAMberra in April this year.

The idea was launched by Mr Belfield's closest friend Lee, who with a group of friends decided to support them through their traumatic experience.

The charity has in its eight years raised $1.5 million - money that directly benefits research grants by SIDS, among others.

"It's something that's not spoken about a lot but there's more awareness now," Mrs Belfield said. "It's raised the profile, whereas when it happened to us, it was a very isolating experience. I also find it exciting that there is now support for families after it happens so as not to have other families go through what we did."

Stillbirth rates have not changed in 20 years, and the alarming statistic has led to more action being taken on a national level.

In a report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare this month, the latest statistics reveal that the stillbirth rate in Australia remains much the same.

It shows that 2100 babies died of stillbirth in 2015, and another 2100 died in 2016. Six babies die every day from stillbirth.

In response to the report, the federal government accepted the recommendations made by the Senate Select Committee on Stillbirth Research and Education Report.

It is investing $52.4 million in perinatal services and support to help prevent, reduce and assist families.

Funds includes developing a National Stillbirth Action and Implementation Plan in collaboration with state and territory governments and in consultation with bereaved parents, health professionals, researchers and advocacy groups.

It also includes developing best practice, culturally appropriate resources for health professionals and parents and families, and more intensive support options for bereaved parents and families following stillbirth.

A total of $43.9 million will support families experiencing grief following the death of a child. Organisations will be invited to apply for grants focusing on perinatal mental health support, perinatal loss and bereavement peer support and perinatal mental health promotion and awareness programs.

Mrs Belfield says a boost in funding is fantastic.

"This funding is phenomenal because up until now there's not been much government support, it's all community based," she said.

Stillbirth Foundation Australia chief exeuctive, Kate Lynch, says up to a third of deaths are preventable with the right education programs and national health campaigns.

"The ground-breaking Senate Inquiry into Stillbirth Research and Education made strong recommendations last year, providing a roadmap to reduce the rate of stillbirth by 20 per cent over three years," she said.

"There are things we know that can reduce the rate of stillbirth but are not reflected in current advice or medical practice, and there are things that only further medical research can reveal.

"Our stillbirth rate is much higher than that of other countries such as the UK and New Zealand."

Safe slumber: Sleeping on either side especially during the last three months of pregnancy can significantly reduce the likelihood of stillbirth.

Safe slumber: Sleeping on either side especially during the last three months of pregnancy can significantly reduce the likelihood of stillbirth.

To promote ongoing awareness, the annual Red Nose Day campaign, which has a new date of August 9, aims to continue to lead the way in also reducing sudden and unexpected infant deaths.

Fundraising efforts from Red Nose Day have enabled ground-breaking international projects to educate pregnant mothers on the importance of sleep position to prevent late-term stillbirth.

There are simple steps expectant mothers can take to improve their chances of having a healthy delivery.

One of these is sleeping on their side from 28 weeks of pregnancy onwards, and seeking immediate healthcare professional advice if they notice changes in their baby's movements.

Going to sleep on either side in late pregnancy (the last three months) more than halves stillbirth risk. Both sides appear equally safe.

The increased late stillbirth risk is related to decreased blood flow to the baby by up to 80 per cent, if a pregnant woman sleeps on her back, compared to her side.

Principal study investigator, Adrienne Gordon, says stillbirth remains one of the greatest challenges in modern obstetric practice.

"Stillbirth is a national tragedy, which has a devastating and far reaching psychosocial impacts on women, families, caregivers and communities; as well as a wide-ranging economic impact on our health system and society," she said.

Red Nose Day (August 9) aims to raise awareness of SIDS and stillbirth.

Red Nose Day (August 9) aims to raise awareness of SIDS and stillbirth.

Australians are encouraged to support Red Nose Day by making a donation at rednoseday.org.au or purchasing a product including the iconic red nose online or at BIG W and other retailers.

People can also get involved by hosting a fundraising event any time in July or August, and pre-schools can host a Little Rockers Red Nose Disco.

Thanks to long-term Red Nose Day ambassadors The Wiggles, a special edition 'Wags' character plush toy with a red nose is also available for purchase at BIG W, with 100 per cent of proceeds going directly to Red Nose.

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