The International Stillbirth Alliance, which was the driver behind the hugely influential Lancet Stillbirth Series published in 2011, continues to push for change to reduce stillbirths across the world. The Alliance is exactly that: a coalition of parent groups and research teams who want to work together to raise awareness, advance understanding and campaign to improve maternity care. Sands has been an active member of ISA for almost a decade.

The annual meeting of the ISA was hosted this year in Baltimore by member organisation, First Candle, a parent organisation in the USA. Every second year ISA joins with the International Society for Preventing Infant Deaths (ISPID), whose focus is on Sudden Infant Death (SIDS), and the October joint conference included discussion of what stillbirth research might learn from SIDS.

Sands was represented at the conference by Janet Scott, Research and Prevention Manager, and Dr Alex Heazell from Manchester University presented his research findings on a number of stillbirth related studies, including the Sands funded survey of parents’ perspectives on perinatal post mortem.

The stillbirth track of the conference covered a wide variety of topics, including perinatal audit, fetal movement management, placental research, and the risk factors for stillbirth. There was robust debate of the suggestion that side sleeping may be linked to stillbirth, with unanimous agreement that further work is needed to discover if this is an exciting finding or a red herring. There were sessions each day focussing on grief and bereavement, looking at aspects such as taking a baby home before the funeral, and the role of parents sharing their experience in training health professionals. The conference included moments to remember and to share stories of all the babies whose deaths had brought everyone together.

ISA aims to highlight stillbirths in lower income countries where most stillbirths occur, and next year’s conference will be held in Vietnam. In 2015, excitingly for UK Sands, the conference will be held in the Netherlands, and we hope many UK parents and health professionals will cross the Channel and support this event.

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