April 13 (Reuters) - Some 2.6 million stillbirths occurred worldwide in 2009, according to the first comprehensive set of estimates published on Wednesday in a series of papers in the Lancet medical journal.
Here are some of the findings:
* Every day more than 7,200 babies are stillborn.
* The World Health Organiation defines stillbirth as a baby that dies after the 28th week of gestation, or during the third trimester of pregnancy.
* The main causes of stillbirth are childbirth complications, maternal infections in pregnancy such as syphillis, maternal health problems such hypertension and diabetes, fetal growth restriction, in which the baby fails to achieve expected growth targets, and birth defects.
* Stillbirths disproprotionately affect the poor, with 98 percent of these deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries. An African woman has a 24 times greater risk of stillbirth than a woman in a high-income country.
* More than two-thirds of stillbirths occur in rural families where access to prenatal and obestetric care is limited.
* Some 1.2 million stillbirths occur during labor and birth, and most of these are babies that could be saved with access to quality care at birth.
* Stillbirths fell by a rate of 1.1 percent per year between 1995 and 2009, a rate that lags behind improvements in maternal and newborn death rates.
* Ten countries account for 66 percent of the world's stillbirths. They are: India; Pakistan, Nigeria, China, Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Tanzania and Afghanistan.
SOURCE: The Lancet (Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago; Editing by David Storey)