Coordinated Health

Conditions

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

Alternative Names

Fetal death

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.

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