Search

Stillbirth

Definition

A stillbirth is when a fetus that was expected to survive dies during birth or during the last half of pregnancy.

See also: Miscarriage

Information

Stillbirth is becoming less common as care for pregnancy improves. If you have a stillbirth, your health care provider may ask to carefully examine and test the fetus to determine the cause of stillbirth. This may help plan medical care for any future pregnancies. A full autopsy will be offered. You may decline this option if you wish.

Stillbirth can be caused by:

  • Birth defects
  • Chromosome abnormalities
  • Infection, in the mother or the fetus
  • Injuries
  • Medical conditions of the mother, such as diabetes, epilepsy, and high blood pressure
  • Placenta problems (placental detachment or poor placental function)
  • Sudden severe blood loss (hemorrhage) in the mother or fetus
  • Stopping of the heartbeat (cardiac arrest) in the mother or fetus
  • Umbilical cord problems

In about 15 - 35% of stillbirths, no explanation can be found.

Stillbirth is traumatic for the mother and her family. It can cause grief and lead to an increased risk for postpartum depression .

References

Cunningham FG, Leveno KL, Bloom SL, et al. Diseases and injuries of the fetus and newborn. In: Cunningham FG, Leveno KL, Bloom SL, et al, eds. . 23rd ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2010: chap 29.

Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, eds. . Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Churchill Livingstone; 2007.

Dudley DJ, Goldenberg R, Conway D, Siler RM, Saade GR, Varner MW, et al. A new system for determining the causes of stillbirth. . 2010;116:254-260.

Media

    Encyclopedia content is provided as information only and not intended to replace the advice and instruction from your personal physician.