SASKATOON -- Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan are tracking global still birth patterns and the associated social determinants of health.

“We really didn’t know what causes a still birth,” lead researcher Nazeem Muhajarine said.

For two years the team has analyzed gender barriers, maternal nutrition, skill levels of birth attendants and pre-natal care in 194 countries.

The highest rates of still birth were found in 37 countries, many of them located in sub-Saharan Africa with rates ranging from 14.0 to 42.9 deaths per 1,000 births, a total the researchers believe is directly linked to poverty and gender inequality.

“We found that in those countries men and women are unequal,” Muhajarine said. That inequality was seen in education, income and political representation.

Some of the lowest rates of stillbirth were found in countries such as England, Iceland and Canada. Iceland had the lowest still birth rate with 1.3 per 1,000 total births.

“The difference between the highest and lowest are set between three levels: the level of the mother, mothers need good nutrition; the second level is the level of the heath care and infrastructure; and the third level is often found where there is a division in gender rights and men and women are seen as unequal,” Muhajarine said.

The researchers plan to present their findings to the United Nations, where they hope to make recommendations that could lower still birth rates in developing countries and across the world.