Insights on the differentiation of stillbirths and early neonatal deaths: A study from the Child Health and Mortality Prevention Surveillance (CHAMPS) network
The high burden of stillbirths and neonatal deaths is driving global initiatives to improve birth outcomes. Discerning stillbirths from neonatal deaths can be difficult in some settings, yet this distinction is critical for understanding causes of perinatal deaths and improving resuscitation practices for live born babies.
We evaluated data from the Child Health and Mortality Prevention Surveillance (CHAMPS) network to compare the accuracy of determining stillbirths versus neonatal deaths from different data sources and to evaluate evidence of resuscitation at delivery in accordance with World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. CHAMPS works to identify causes of stillbirth and death in children <5 years of age in Bangladesh and 6 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Using CHAMPS data, we compared the final classification of a case as a stillbirth or neonatal death as certified by the CHAMPS Determining Cause of Death (DeCoDe) panel to both the initial report of the case by the family member or healthcare worker at CHAMPS enrollment and the birth outcome as stillbirth or livebirth documented in the maternal health record.
Of 1967 deaths ultimately classified as stillbirth, only 28 (1.4%) were initially reported as livebirths. Of 845 cases classified as very early neonatal death, 33 (4%) were initially reported as stillbirth. Of 367 cases with post-mortem examination showing delivery weight >1000g and no maceration, the maternal clinical record documented that resuscitation was not performed in 161 cases (44%), performed in 14 (3%), and unknown or data missing for 192 (52%).
This analysis found that CHAMPS cases assigned as stillbirth or neonatal death after DeCoDe expert panel review were generally consistent with the initial report of the case as a stillbirth or neonatal death. Our findings suggest that more frequent use of resuscitation at delivery and improvements in documentation around events at birth could help improve perinatal outcomes.