Heartbreaking research released last month revealed that six babies are still lost to stillbirth every day in Australia. That's one baby born sleeping every four hours.
That's a figure that has largely remained unchanged in the past two decades, which is something the team at Red Nose is determined to change.
Ahead of Red Nose Day this Friday August 9, Red Nose this week announced world-leading new research being funded and led by the organisation to help meet its goal to reduce stillbirth rates in Australia by 20 per cent over the next five to ten years.
In line with Red Nose's mission to reduce the more than 3,000 babies who are dying suddenly and unexpectedly every day in Australia to zero, this new research project will offer tremendous opportunities in the area of stillbirth prevention.
Tragically, 1 in 100 Australian pregnancies that reach 20 weeks' gestation end in stillbirth. Prior research has already identified that many of these deaths are triggered by an ageing placenta, so this new research will investigate the biochemistry of placental ageing in pregnant women, and develop diagnostic tests to predict pregnancies most at risk of stillbirth.
Keren Ludski, CEO, Red Nose Australia said: "The announcement of this new research project is incredibly exciting. The outcomes will, without a doubt, have an impact on the rate of stillbirth in Australia, as they will lead to the development of blood tests to predict which women are at risk of late-term stillbirth.
The placenta secretes hormones that maintain pregnancy and prevent menstruation; it supplies your baby with food and oxygen and removes waste products; it forms a barrier against some infections, although not against viruses such as rubella (German measles) or toxins such as alcohol and nicotine. It also forms the amniotic fluid and the barrier between you and your baby's blood.
Placentas age at different rates, much like people do, and it is completely out of the mother's control. Some placentas can begin to age weeks before the mother's due date, slowly reducing the nutrients and oxygen the fetus needs to survive.
As a pregnancy advances and the placenta ages, late-term stillbirth becomes increasingly likely - particularly after 39 completed weeks of gestation. Because of this, there is an urgent need for better methods to detect that the baby is at risk of stillbirth.
Once this new research is completed, these results will be used to develop blood tests to predict which women are at risk of experiencing a stillbirth.
WATCH: Stillbirths in Australia. Post continues after video ...
"This puts health professionals in the unprecedented position of being able to offer preventative care, and the opportunity to deliver the baby before there are adverse outcomes," says Ludski.
"With six stillbirths a day, the time to act is now. Red Nose is committed to addressing this national tragedy so that families no longer have to go through the heartbreak of losing their baby to stillbirth.
"With 2,107 babies lost to stillbirth each year in Australia – the impact is absolutely heart wrenching. There are so many people deeply hurting from each death. How many is too many? It simply has to end.
"By supporting Red Nose Day, you will help fund vital research like this life-changing new project, along with education and critical support services for families who devastatingly experience the sudden, unexpected death of their child."
If you, or someone you know, needs to talk to someone, call Lifeline on 13 11 44. Or, if it is an emergency and you're experiencing a crisis, call 000 NOW.
For information and support around stillbirth, contact: Miscarriage, Stillbirth and Newborn Death Support (SANDS) on 1300 072 637.