Sunday, May 22, 2016

Stillbirths

Erela Ganan
Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, www.jiis.org

In 2011 there were 166,296 live births in Israel, and the overall fertility rate – that is, the average number of children per woman – stood at 3.0. Jerusalem had 26,577 live births, with a fertility rate of 3.94, resulting mainly from the high birthrates in the Arab and ultra-orthodox sectors.
When speaking of childbirth, there is a tendency to avoid mentioning the tragedy of stillbirth. The Ministry of Health has published guidelines to help parents in these situations. The distinction between a miscarriage and stillbirth is based on one of two criteria: a weight of at least 500 grams at the time of the dead infant’s birth, or a birth that takes place during or after the 22nd week of pregnancy, when the weight is unknown. Such cases are statistically rare in Israel: of 167,188 births in Israel in 2011, “only” 892 were stillborn, that is, 0.53%, or in other words – 5.3 stillbirths for every 1,000 births. In the Jerusalem District 139 infants were stillborn, comprising 0.52%, that is, a rate of 5.2 per 1,000, while in Jerusalem itself the rate of stillbirths is 5.1 per 1,000, with 117 deaths. In Tel Aviv the rate is 5.5, whereas in Ashdod and Haifa the rates are 6.1 and 6.9, respectively. 
What about termination of pregnancy? A deliberate termination (abortion) may legally be performed in Israel only with the authorization of an abortion committee. In 2011 there were 10.3 such requests per 1,000 women (calculated for women of childbearing age, that is, 15-49). The Jerusalem District and city of Jerusalem had the lowest rates of requests in Israel (5.7 requests at the district level, and only 4.8 at the city level). Requests for termination of pregnancy are granted in various situations, such as when the pregnant woman is below marriageable age (17 years), when the woman is not married, or when the pregnancy is out of wedlock. Married women who face unwanted pregnancies, however, are trapped by the law. In 2012, 43.7% of the women who submitted requests to abortion committees were married, with the request in most cases taking place during the second month of pregnancy (when the average age of the fetus was 8.2 weeks). At the same time, abortion committees tend to approve the requests they receive: in 2012, 98.8% of requests were granted. It also turns out that there is a gap between the number of abortions authorized and the number of abortions that actually take place. (In 2010, out of a total of 21,363 requests, 20,809 were authorized and 19,531 were carried out.)


Sources: CBS, Ministry of Health

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