Knowing your audience: Investigating stillbirth knowledge and perceptions in the general population to inform future public health campaigns



      The prevalence of stillbirth in many high income countries like Australia has remained unchanged for over 30 years. The 2018 Australian government Senate Select Committee on Stillbirth Research and Education highlighted the need for a public health campaign to encourage public conversations and increase awareness. However, there is little evidence about the community’s knowledge and perceptions towards pregnancy and stillbirth, nor their aspirations for a public health campaign.


      To assess the general knowledge, perceptions, myths and attitudes towards stillbirth to inform future public health campaigns.


      Australian participants (n = 344; predominately women n = 294 (85.5%)) were recruited via They completed a cross-sectional online survey designed to assess their knowledge of pregnancy and stillbirth, with additional questions on socio-demographic characteristics.


      Stillbirth knowledge and awareness of incidence was low in this sample. Prominent myths, such as baby runs out of room in the uterus (n = 112, 33%) and baby slows down when preparing for labour (n = 24, 27%) were endorsed. Only 25% (n = 85) knew the prevalence of stillbirth in Australia (six per day). Almost two-thirds (n = 205; 62%) agreed that there needs to be a public health campaign, however one in five (n = 65; 20%) were concerned that talking about stillbirth with pregnant women may cause them to worry.

      Discussion and conclusion

      Our findings reinforce the need for a targeted campaign, which educates the general population about the definition and prevalence of stillbirth, stillbirth risks and modifiable health behaviours. Appropriate messaging should target pregnant women during antenatal care as well as their support and care systems (family, friends, and care providers).


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