A stillbirth is when a fetus that was expected to survive dies during birth or during the last half of pregnancy.
See also: Miscarriage
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:
Infection, in the mother or the fetus
Medical conditions of the mother, such as diabetes, epilepsy, and high blood pressure
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.
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. Williams Obstetrics. 23rd ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2010: chap 29.
Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, eds. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 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. Obstet Gynecol. 2010;116:254-260.
- The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.
- A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions.
- Call 911 for all medical emergencies.
- Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites.
©1997 - A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.