According to the National Stillbirth Society, stillbirth, occurring in about 1 in 160 pregnancies can be defined as the intrauterine death and subsequent delivery of a developing infant that occurs beyond 20 completed weeks of gestation. The majority of stillbirths happen before labor, whereas a small percentage occur during labor and delivery.
Why do stillbirths happen?
An autopsy is considered to be the best way to diagnose a cause for stillbirth, but is not always a standard procedure. Know about the hospitals procedures when handling stillborn babies and the cause of death and if normal procedure do have an autopsy, seek to find out how you can request one.
The Common Known Causes of Stillbirths Include:
Placental Problems: Women with placental abruption, preeclampsia or pregnancy induced hypertension, are at an increased risk of stillbirth when compared to unaffected women. Insufficient oxygen and nutrients can also contribute to a baby’s death.
Birth Defects: 15-20% of all stillborn cases are due to chromosomal disorders. Sometimes these structural malformations can also result from genetic, environmental or unknown causes.
Growth Restriction: Babies not growing at an appropriate rate are at a risk of death from asphyxia (lack of oxygen) both before and during birth.
Infections: Bacterial infections between 24 and 27 weeks gestation may result in fetal deaths. These may go unnoticed and undiagnosed until they result in serious complications.
Other infrequent causes of stillbirth include: umbilical cord accidents, high blood pressure, trauma, maternal diabetes and postdate pregnancy (a pregnancy that lasts longer than 42 weeks)
Factors that increase a mother’s risk of stillbirth
Women 35 years old or older
Inadequate prenatal care
Alcohol and drug abuse
How is a stillbirth diagnosis made?
An ultrasound can confirm the baby death and in some cases can determine the reason why.
How to prevent stillbirth?
Advancements in medicine field has decreased the number of stillbirths. Today those with high-risk pregnancies are carefully monitored through routine ultrasounds and/or fetal heart rate monitoring. Early delivery may be necessary in case of potential problems.
The following are steps you can take to help prevent stillbirth:
Take time each day to record your baby’s movements. If you familiarize yourself with what is normal for your baby, then you are more likely to notice when something does not feel right. When a sudden decrease in movements occur, contact your health care provider. An ultrasound can normally confirm if there are any potential problems.
Avoid alcohol, smoking and drugs as these can increase your risk of stillbirth and other pregnancy complications.
In case of vaginal bleeding in the second half of pregnancy, contact the health care provider immediately.
If you have had a previous stillbirth, future pregnancies should be monitored closely to prevent another pregnancy loss.