Vital Statistics - Stillbirth Database (CVSS)
Detailed information for 2020
This is an administrative survey that collects demographic information annually from all provincial and territorial vital statistics registries on all stillbirths (fetal deaths) in Canada. 2017 to 2020 stillbirth data for Yukon are not available. The 2016 to 2020 data are considered preliminary due to improvements in methodology and timeliness, the duration of data collection for more recent years has been shortened compared to previous years. As a result, there may have been fewer births and stillbirths captured by the time of the release.
Data release - September 28, 2021
This is an administrative survey that collects demographic information annually from all provincial and territorial vital statistics registries on all stillbirths (fetal deaths) in Canada. Starting in 2012, stillbirths to mothers residing in Canada occurring in the United States are no longer collected.
The data are used to calculate basic indicators (such as counts and rates) on stillbirths of residents of Canada. Information from this database is also used in the calculation of statistics, such as the late fetal death rate and the perinatal death rate.
For Canada as a whole, it was impossible to compile a satisfactory series of vital statistics prior to 1921. Eight provinces initially joined the cooperative Canadian vital statistics system, leading to the publication of the first annual report for Canada in 1921; that report included Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. Quebec began to participate in 1926 and Newfoundland in 1949 (after joining Confederation) and their data were included in the tabulations from those years onward. Basic data from the Yukon and Northwest Territories were published as appendices to the national tables from 1924 to 1955; their data were first included in the regular tabulations in 1956. Nunavut came into being officially as a Territory of Canada on April 1, 1999. The name Northwest Territories applies to a Territory with different geographic boundaries before and after April 1, 1999.
Prior to 1944 all vital events were classified by place of occurrence. Since 1944, births, stillbirths, and deaths have been classified by area of reported residence, with births and stillbirths according to the residence of the mother.
Reference period: Calendar year
Collection period: From the beginning of the reference period until approximately six months after the end of the reference period.
- Births and deaths
- Population and demography
- Pregnancy and births
Data sources and methodology
The conceptual universe of the Stillbirth database is stillbirths to Canadian resident women occurring anywhere in the world.
The target population of the Stillbirth database is stillbirths to Canadian resident women occurring in Canada.
The actual (survey) population of the Stillbirth database is stillbirths to Canadian resident women and non-resident women occurring in Canada.
This methodology type does not apply to this statistical program.
This survey is a census with a cross-sectional design.
No sampling is done.
Administrative data on all stillbirths are collected from the offices of each of the provincial and territorial registrars of vital events.
Data collection for this reference period: 2020-01-01 to 2020-07-06
Responding to this survey is mandatory.
Data are extracted from administrative files.
Provincial and territorial Vital Statistics Acts (or equivalent legislation) render compulsory the registration of all live births, stillbirths, deaths and marriages within their jurisdictions. These Acts follow, as closely as possible, a Model Vital Statistics Act that was developed to promote uniformity of legislation and reporting practices among the provinces and territories.
The Canadian Vital Statistics system operates under an agreement between the Government of Canada and governments of the provinces and territories. The Vital Statistics Council for Canada, an advisory committee set up by an Order-in-Council, oversees policy and operational matters. All provincial and territorial jurisdictions and Statistics Canada are represented on the Vital Statistics Council. Under the agreement, all registrars collect a specified set of data elements, although any of them may decide to collect additional information.
The form for the registration of a stillbirth is usually completed by the parents, who are responsible for filing it with the local, provincial or territorial registrar. Stillbirth registration requires a medical certificate of the cause of stillbirth to be completed by a physician or coroner.
The central Vital Statistics Registry in each province and territory provides data from stillbirth registrations to Statistics Canada. The following statistical data items are reported for each stillbirth by all provinces and territories for inclusion in the Canadian Vital Statistics system (non-exhaustive list):
1) Date and place of stillbirth
2) Sex, birth weight and gestational age of fetus
3) Parents' age, marital status and birthplace
4) Mother's place of residence
5) Type of birth (single or multiple)
All jurisdictions supply optical images or paper copies of stillbirth registration forms to Statistics Canada. In addition, all provinces supply electronically to Statistics Canada the required standard information.
Starting with the data for reference year 2008, the electronic transfer was performed by sending the data via the National Routing System (NRS) according to Statistics Canada standards. The effective date for this method of transmission varies by province.
For the territories, the required standard information on paper is converted to electronic format at Statistics Canada.
Subsequent changes to registrations due to errors, amendments or omissions are transmitted to Statistics Canada as the information becomes available. However, changes received after a cut-off date are not reflected in published tabulations.
Provinces and territories that supply machine-readable data perform edits (edit validation and data consistency) before transmitting their data, based on standard edit specifications prepared by Statistics Canada. Health Statistics Division has actively promoted the use of a standard data dictionary and standard correlation edits for provincial/territorial data entry. More extensive edit routines are applied to the data by Statistics Canada to ascertain the completeness and quality of the data. For example, additional edits for multiple births identify possible errors and inconsistencies between the stillbirth and birth databases. If the characteristics of the mother of triplets (1 live born and 2 stillborn) are different on the separate registration forms, manual updates make these data consistent on both the birth and stillbirth databases. After the preparation of a preliminary data file, verification tables are prepared for data review by the registries and Statistics Canada (for example, distributions, large changes, percentage and number of unknowns, outliers, and changes in the relative composition).
The last comprehensive study of the quality of data capture and data coding was done in 1981, when error rates for most variables were found to be quite low. Since then, studies have been completed on an irregular basis for specific provinces. The most recent study was done in 2002 on the 2000 Prince Edward Island birth data following their development of a new data capture system. A systematic random sample of records was drawn, and the Prince Edward Island capture was compared with the microfilmed documents. Inconsistencies were documented, and a report was sent to the Prince Edward Island Vital Statistics Registrar. Overall, the error rate was zero for most of the important statistical variables (sex of child, age of mother, total number of children, and multiple births indicators).
The only stillbirth data regularly captured at Statistics Canada are from the three territories. Operations and Integration Division maintains data capture quality controls and performs 20% verification of captured data to maintain an error rate of less than 3%.
The multiple birth check is a process that ensures a proper accounting of the parity of the mother and other information in the event of a multiple birth. This check was performed for all years, but parity information was in general given greater scrutiny in 2013 than in years past.
Imputation was done for any missing province or territory of residence, sex of the fetus for sex-specific causes of stillbirth, and age and date of birth of the mother. Missing data on province or territory of residence in Canada were imputed to the province or territory of occurrence. Missing age values were imputed based on the date of birth (if provided) or by imputing the age value to the median age observed for the mother's province of residence. Missing dates of birth were imputed using a decision table based on the mother's age and the date of birth of the child. In general, these imputations affect few records annually.
This administrative survey only produces estimates for provisional monthly deaths.
Upon completion of the annual national stillbirth data base (produced as described in the section Error Detection above), Statistics Canada carries out a series of quality checks that include:
1) producing a set of verification tables which consist of basic tabulations for the majority of variables in the data base by province or territory of occurrence;
2) sending the verification tables to each provincial/territorial registrar of vital statistics for their review and approval that Statistics Canada and the registry obtain the same results;
3) checking for internal consistencies, for example, running frequencies and looking for outliers on certain data elements; and
4) comparing the most recent data year with past data years to detect any unusual or unexpected changes.
Comparisons of tabulated data are made with vital statistics data published by the provinces and territories, where available.
Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any information it collects that could identify any person, business, or organization, unless consent has been given by the respondent or as permitted by the Statistics Act. Various confidentiality rules are applied to all data that are released or published to prevent the publication or disclosure of any information deemed confidential. If necessary, data are suppressed to prevent direct or residual disclosure of identifiable data.
Revisions and seasonal adjustment
This methodology does not apply to this survey.
Since the registration of stillbirths is a legal requirement in each Canadian province and territory, reporting is virtually complete, with some important exceptions. 2017 to 2020 birth and stillbirth data for Yukon are not available. Due to improvements in methodology and timeliness, the duration of data collection has been shortened compared to previous years. As a result, there may have been fewer births and stillbirths captured by the time of the release. The 2016 to 2020 data are therefore considered preliminary. Prior to October 2019, Quebec used slightly more limited reporting criteria (500 or more grams birth weight, compared with 500 or more grams birth weight or a gestational age of at least 20 weeks used in other provinces). Prior to April 1, 2008, New Brunswick did not require the registration of stillbirths meeting the reporting criteria when the fetus is removed during a therapeutic abortion. Under-coverage may occur because of late registration. Some stillbirths are registered by local authorities, but the paperwork is not forwarded to provincial or territorial registrars before a cut-off date. These cases for 2000 represent approximately 40 stillbirths, 7 years after the year of stillbirth (accumulated late records), or two percent of the total records. Other missing registrations may occur with Canadian women who have a stillbirth outside of Canada.
Over-coverage is minimal. Stillbirths to non-resident women in Canada are registered but are excluded from most tabulations. Duplicate stillbirth registrations are identified as part of the regular processing operations on each provincial and territorial subset, as well as by additional inter-provincial checks. Additional edits for multiple births identify possible duplicates or missing records between the stillbirth and birth databases. Possible duplicate registrations are checked against microfilmed registrations or optical images, or by consulting with the provinces and territories.
- Vital Statistics - Stillbirth Database - History
- Data quality, concepts and methodology: Definitions