Fresh stillborn and severely asphyxiated neonates share a common hypoxic–ischemic pathway

Document Type



Obstetrics and Gynaecology (East Africa)


Objective To characterize, among non‐breathing flaccid neonates at delivery, immediate heartrate and responses to ventilation in relation to the clinical diagnosis of fresh stillbirth (FSB) or early neonatal death (END) within 24 hours.

Methods The present cross‐sectional study included all deliveries at Haydom Hospital in rural Tanzania between July 1, 2013, and July 31, 2016. Ventilation parameters and heartrate were recorded by monitors with ventilation and dry‐electrocardiography sensors. Perinatal characteristics were recorded on data forms by trained research assistants.

Results Among 12 789 neonates delivered, 915 were ventilated; among ventilated neonates, there were 53 (6%) FSBs and 64 (7%) ENDs. Electrocardiography was used in 46 FSBs and 55 ENDs, and these neonates were included in a subanalysis. Initial heartrate was detected in 27 (59%) of 46 FSBs and 52 (95%) of 55 ENDs, and was lower in FSBs (52 ± 19 vs 76 ± 37 bpm; P=0.003). More ENDs responded to ventilation (53% vs 9%; P<0.001), with heartrate increasing above 100 bpm. Heartrate at ventilation discontinuation was higher among ENDs (115 ± 49 vs 52 ± 33 bpm; P<0.001).

Conclusion Progression to FSB or END after intrapartum hypoxia/anoxia is probably part of the same circulatory end‐process. Distinguishing FSB from severely asphyxiated newborns is clinically difficult and probably influences estimated global perinatal mortality rates.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.


International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics