Risk Of Stillbirth Higher In Women Who Experience Stress And Abuse During Pregnancy: Study

Ally Villar
·3-min read

Mothers who go through psychological stress and domestic abuse may need more care and attention more than ever as it’s been found to raise warning signs of stillbirth among pregnant women.

Stillbirth remains a problem for many women around the world. There have been 73 stillbirths in Singapore alone and overall 97 perinatal deaths registered as recorded in the 2019 Report on Registration of Births and Dates.  UNICEF has also recently recorded about 2 million stillbirths worldwide. While the cause of about 40% of stillbirth cases is left unknown, experts continue to find other possible sources to help reduce the risk. 

One of the most recent links they’ve found to stillbirth involved a woman’s experience with deprivation, unemployment stress, and abuse. According to the study from Tommy’s Manchester Research Centre at The University of Manchester, all showed higher risk in delivering stillborn babies. 

Pregnant Woman Who Experience Stress And Abuse At High Risk Of Stillbirth

The study involved analysing more than 1,000 births across 41 UK hospitals between the years 2014 and 2016. Researchers from Tommy’s Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre at the University of Manchester combined information typically used to measure stillbirth risk along with an interview-led questionnaire regarding the mothers’ behaviour and social characteristics. They also considered other factors such as smoking to see whether and when stillbirth may have been avoidable. 

warning signs of stillbirth
warning signs of stillbirth

Image source: iStock



Factors That Lead To Higher Risk Of Stillbirth

  • Deprivation In Women 

Results showed that women from the most deprived socio-economic group were at a 2.96x higher (6.09% vs 1.44%) risk of stillbirth, which is at almost triple the risk compared to others in the scale. Unemployed mothers were also seen at similar risk of stillbirth with 2.58% higher risk (6.12% vs 1.32%).

  • Stress In Women

For women experiencing high levels of perceived stress, the risk of stillbirth was doubled (3.57% vs 1.17%) while independent of other social factors and pregnancy complications that may pressure pregnant mothers. 

  • Women In Abusive Relationships

It was found that women who did not wish to answer the question regarding abuse were over 4x (6.70% vs 2.61%) more likely to have a stillbirth while those who did answer ‘yes’ revealed not to have a higher risk. Researchers suggested this could be because their willingness to give such information can mean they would also do so to other external parties who could then intervene and help the mother and her child.

How Antenatal Care Appointments Can Help

Researchers of the study also found that increased antenatal care may give strong protection for women against stillbirth. Mothers who went to more appointments than the indicated national guidelines were found to have a 72% lower risk of stillbirth.  

“We know people are more likely to disclose issues such as stress and domestic abuse to a professional if they have a good relationship with them and believe that person can help. Maternity care providers should be supported and trained to have open conversations, and connect patients with any other services they need so that we can start to reduce the risks for these women and their babies,” added study author Prof Alex Heazell, Tommy’s Research Centre Director and obstetrics professor at the University of Manchester.

Where To Get Help

Domestic violence cases continue to occur not only Singapore but the rest of the world. If you are or know someone who is experiencing domestic abuse, please do not hesitate to call any of these local helplines:

  • Care Corner Project StART: 6476 1482

  • ComCare Call: 1800-222-0000

  • The National CARE Hotline: 1800-202-6868

  • PAVE Integrated Services for Individual and Family Protection Specialist Centre (ISIFPSC): 6555 0390

  • SOS: 1800-221-4444

  • TRANS SAFE Centre: 6449 9088

With reports from Nikki De Guzman. 


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