While stillbirths were on the decline in the past decades across highly industrialized countries, like Australia, Canada and United States, the still birth rates have actually increased--primarily because of more abortions for fetuses with congential defects.

The rates of stillbirth in British Columbia, Canada jumped 31 percent while Australia's went from seven per 1,000 total births to 7.8 within a decade. The rates for spontaneous stillbirths have not increased overall.

"The prevention of stillbirth through early delivery of the compromised fetus is considered the cornerstone of modern obstetrics," said K.S. Joseph, co-author and researcher from the department of obstetrics and gynecology and School of Population and Public Health at University of British Columbia, in the study. "The recent trends in stillbirth rates are therefore disquieting given developments in fetal surveillance techniques, increased monitoring of high-risk pregnancies and simultaneous increases in obstetric intervention."

The findings appear in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Commonalities among the stillbirths are that it occurred at 22 weeks gestation period or sooner and within fetuses that were less than 500 g.

"Increases in pregnancy terminations were responsible for the increases observed in stillbirth rates from 2000 to 2010 and were associated with declines in the prevalence of congenital abnormalities among live-born infants," the authors said.

The rate of stillbirth declined however as the birth weight increased, specifically it declined from 2.73 to 1.95 per 1,000 births as the weight ranged from 1000 g or more.

"Legal requirements for stillbirth registration add unnecessary stress to grieving parents and should be revamped," said Cheryl Davies, an author of the study and vice-president, Ambulatory Programs at the Women's Hospital and Health Centre of British Columbia.

Researchers now want to have a closer examination on the rates as a result of spontaneous stillbirths rather than those affected by pregnancy terminations alone.

Currently, 50 percent of women in Canada who have unintended pregnancies choose to abort the baby and the Canadian Medical Association's policy allows termination up to 20 weeks in gestation.

In the United States, there are six stillbirths per 1,000 total births, a high in a well-industrialized country. Contributing factors include not getting examinations, drug addiction, smoking, being obese or overweight and more than 40 years of age.