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Myths surrounding stillbirth

You may have heard one or more of the following statements, either from your family, friends or even from health care professionals.

A baby’s movements slow down towards the end of pregnancy

WRONG. You should feel your baby move until delivery. Many still believe that baby’s move less towards the end of pregnancy because they are conserving their energy for the birth or because they have less room to move. This is false!


Between weeks 38 and 41, you baby has a healthy muscle tone and their movements are steady. Because your baby will have less room to maneuver, you could feel them move differently, but you will still feel them move as much until delivery.

It’s only of concern for at risk pregnancies

WRONG. The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada recommends that all pregnant women, even healthy ones without risk factors, should be advised to regularly monitor their baby's movements starting at 26 weeks gestation.


According to Australia’s Red Nose organization, 70% of mothers of stillborn babies have no significant medical condition putting them at risk.


Unfortunately, no one is immune. Stillbirth can happen to anyone.

Newborn Baby

Stillbirths can’t be prevented

WRONG. In high income countries such as Canada, a sense of fatalism still prevails across communities and the health-care workforce. Surveys conducted by the International Stillbirth Alliance show that two out of three respondents felt their community believed that most stillbirths can’t be prevented.

However, recent interventions at the international level have shown that a high percentage of stillbirths are preventable:

  • England's ‘Saving Babies Lives’ program, put in place by the equivalent of Health Canada, contributed to a 20% decrease of stillbirths in maternity units where it was deployed.

  • In 2011, the Scottish Government invested in the implementation of a 4-year program that saw a 19.5% reduction of stillbirths between 2012 and 2015.

  • The Netherlands have reduced their stillbirth rate by 6.8% a year between 2000 and 2015 since the implementation of a program aimed at improving women’s health and pregnancy care.


It is important to distinguish between preventable deaths caused by lack of oxygen before, during or just after birth, from those deaths that are not preventable and caused, for example, by congenital abnormalities or great prematurity. In Canada:

  • asphyxia accounts for almost half of stillbirths;

  • only 8 to 10% of stillborns have congenital anomalies.


The 2016 Report on Perinatal Mortality in New Zealand showed that 13% of the total perinatal deaths and 53% of deaths due to lack of oxygen, were potentially preventable.

Stillbirths no longer exist in Canada

WRONG. The stillbirth rate in Canada has been increasing since 2003 and was at 8.6 for 1000 births in 2021 (according to data from Statistics Canada). This means that:

  • More than 3,000 babies die in their mother’s womb each year after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

  • One out of 118 births will end in stillbirth.

  • There are 8.7 stillbirths every day in Canada.


According to the Hunter Medical Research Institute, it is estimated that for each stillbirth, there are another 99 births that narrowly avoid death.

If I can hear my baby’s heartbeat, then everything is fine

WRONG. Many devices (from our cell phones to dopplers) allow us to hear our baby’s heartbeat. Don’t rely on this to determine that your baby is fine. Even if you can hear your baby’s heartbeat, it does not mean that everything is well. However, it does mean that there is still time to save your baby if you perceive a reduction in their movements. Because once the heart stops beating, it is already too late.

Counting baby's movements will be stressful for parents

WRONG. Research shows that parents who count their baby's movements daily are less anxious than those who don't count. Most parents consider counting to be a positive experience and helps them to connect with their baby.

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