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Anonymous Birth scheme protects new-borns and mothers in Austria

(Vienna 5th December 2012) Since 2002, the number of new-born babies who have suffered a violent death has more than halved in Austria. This encouraging development is due to the introduction of the Anonymous Birth scheme in 2001. Scientists at the MedUni Vienna have now been able to provide proof of the scheme's effectiveness.

The study, which has just been published in the internationally-renowned journal of obstetrics and gynaecology BJOG, shows that neonaticides (the killing of a child within the first 24 hours after its birth) have fallen significantly over the last 10 years in Austria. Whereas around seven in every 100,000 new-born babies were affected between 1991 and 2001, this figure has fallen to around three in every 100,000 babies between 2002 and 2009.

No reduction in neonaticides without the Anonymous Birth scheme
The scientists have compared these figures with data from Sweden and Finland. Both countries, like Austria, keep statistical records of these events, however they do not have any legislation comparable to the Anonymous Birth scheme. The results are clear: compared to Austria, there was no drop in the number of new-borns suffering a violent death either in Sweden or Finland.

Way out for women with unwanted pregnancies
According to Claudia Klier from the University Department of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at the MedUni Vienna within the Vienna General Hospital and primary author of the study, neonaticides are usually the result of an unwanted pregnancy and the associated concealment of the pregnancy. Klier believes that one situation makes this general problem worse: “It is these mothers-to-be who try to circumvent the healthcare system. The Anonymous Birth scheme is a highly effective means of helping these women in their difficult situation and providing them with medical and psychosocial support before, during and after the birth.“

Baby hatch the most important additional service
The scientists also investigated other preventative measures, such as the baby hatch or baby box. These have been around for a number of years not only in Austria, but also in many other countries across the world, such as Germany and Japan. Their positive impact, however, is significantly less marked than the Anonymous Birth scheme: scientists estimate that, each year, only two to three babies are left in baby hatches in Austria, whereas 30 to 40 women make use of the Anonymous Birth scheme.

Anonymous birth is possible at the Vienna General Hospital as well as all of the other city hospitals with maternity departments.