Stillbirth refers to the death of fetus after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Stillbirths usually happen before a woman goes into labor.

  • Causes

    Stillbirth may be caused by:

    • Chromosomal disorders
    • Poor fetal growth
    • Infection
    • Complications of multiple gestation—being pregnant with more than one fetus
    • High blood pressure or other conditions in the mother
    • Rh incompatibility
      , which occurs when the mother has Rh-negative blood and fetus has Rh-positive blood
    • Umbilical cord prolapse
      , which occurs when the umbilical cord descends into the vagina too early and cuts of oxygen to the fetus
    • A loop or knot in the umbilical cord
    • Placental abruption
      , which occurs when the placenta that nourishes the fetus separates from the uterus before the fetus is delivered
    • Placenta previa
      , which occurs when the placenta becomes implanted near or over the cervix

    In many cases, the cause is unknown.

  • Definition

    Stillbirth refers to the death of fetus after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Stillbirths usually happen before a woman goes into labor.

  • Diagnosis

    exam may be done. This will allow the doctor to examine the fetus and confirm that the heartbeat has stopped. During this exam, the doctor may be able to find out what caused the stillbirth.

    Abdominal Ultrasound
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    After the woman has given birth, the doctor will further examine the fetus, placenta, and umbilical cord. An autopsy may be done if the parents request it. Tests can be ordered to find out if an infection or genetic disorder caused the baby’s death.

  • Prevention

    While there are no definite ways to prevent stillbirth, there are steps that couples can take to have a healthy pregnancy:

  • Risk Factors

    Many factors may increase the risk of stillbirth. Risk factors in the mother include:

    • Ethnicity: African American
    • Age: 35 years of age or older

    • Chronic condition, such as
      , diabetes,
      high blood pressure
      , thyroid disease, kidney disease, heart disease, blood clotting disorder,
    • Infection
    • Smoking
      , drinking, or using drugs during pregnancy
    • Multiple gestation
    • First pregnancy
    • History of stillbirth or miscarriage in a previous pregnancy
    • Poor prenatal care
    • Trauma
      , such as a car accident

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms include:

    • No movement by the fetus
    • Vaginal bleeding in the mother

  • Treatment

    After the doctor has confirmed that the fetus has died, the parents will be involved in the decision of timing delivery. Usually, planning a vaginal delivery is the safest approach. Sometimes, a cesarean section is necessary. If there are surviving fetuses in a mother giving birth to more than one baby, no intervention may be needed. The mother may choose to have labor induced by taking medicines. Labor is usually induced by medications given vaginally, orally, or by IV.

    While there is no immediate danger of waiting to deliver the baby, there is a risk of infection or a serious bleeding complication for the mother if delivery is postponed for weeks.