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Males have an Increased Risk of Stillbirth, Study Finds

Update Date: Nov 27, 2014 09:28 AM EST

Stillbirths, which occur when a fetus dies in the womb, are more common in males than females, a new study reported.

"The numbers speak for themselves - the disparity between male and female stillbirth is startling. Stillbirth is a common occurrence, even in rich countries with good healthcare systems: every day, eleven babies are stillborn in the UK," Dr. Fiona Mathews from the University of Exeter said according to Medical Xpress. "Uncovering why male babies are at higher risk could be a first step towards developing new approaches to prevention, including sex-specific management of high-risk pregnancies."

For this study, the researchers analyzed more than 30 million births worldwide. They calculated the rate of stillbirths and found that the rate was 10 percent higher in boys than girls. This increased rate was observed across countries of all economic statuses with two exceptions. In China and India, the stillbirth rates were the same for boys and girls. These two countries also had a higher overall stillbirth risk at about 1.7 times greater than the expected numbers.

Although the researchers did not identify why boys are more likely to die in the womb than girls, they reasoned that it could be due to developmental differences and environmental factors that could be affecting boys more than girls. The team added that over the past 15 years, the stillbirth rates have not declined by much. In order to get these numbers down, doctors have to better understand what factors drive them.

Currently, doctors reduce risk of stillborn by using an early warning system that takes the mother's height, weight and ethnicity and uses the information to predict the size of the unborn fetus.

The study was published in BMC Medicine.

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