This paper considers the various problems of estimation and interpretation associated with late-fetal (stillbirth) mortality. It reviews the World Health Organization report on Neonatal and Perinatal Mortality (2006) and explores the methods used to derive stillbirth rates for countries lacking registration or survey data on fetal deaths. Various attempts to derive historical estimates for England are also considered in the light of both the WHO findings and other contemporary evidence from northwest Europe. The contributions of midwifery (birth attendants), disease environment and maternal physique are discussed with particular emphasis on the first mentioned. The relative neglect of fetal mortality in demography is also noted.