1. What is stillbirth?
Stillbirths are the deaths of unborn babies. There is no international standard definition for stillbirths. In the United States, a baby who dies after 20 weeks of pregnancy is considered a stillborn. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines stillbirth as death of a baby after 22 weeks of pregnancy or when the baby weighs more than 500 grams.
2. What are stillbirth facts?
3. What is the frequency of stillbirth compared to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)?
70 lives a day are lost to stillbirth compared to 7 lives a day lost to SIDS. That is a 10 fold difference.
4. What causes stillbirth?
The cause of death for about half of all stillbirths is undetermined or unexplored. There are no standard guidelines for autopsies and data collection when stillbirths occur.
Some of the most common contributing factors for diagnosable stillbirths are:
5. What is "unexplained" stillbirth?
Unexplained stillbirths are not unexplored. An unexplained stillbirth happens when thorough postmortem evaluation and autopsies are done and no definitive cause is found. One fourth to half of stillbirths is unexplained. Unexplained stillbirth is the most common category of stillbirth for pregnancy at 28 weeks or later. Fetal deaths do not happen suddenly. Studies show that 50% of unexplained stillbirths are associated with intrauterine growth restriction, where babies are not growing at an appropriate rate; thus there may be a window of opportunity for intervention.
6. What are some risk factors for unexplained stillbirths?
The risk of unexplained stillbirth increases in moms with:
Other significant fetal risk factors include:
7. Is stillbirth preventable?
Prenatal care screening for hypertension and diabetes, advanced maternal age, obesity, smoking, lower socioeconomic status is essential in stillbirth prevention.
Even low risk pregnancies with decreased fetal movements are known for higher risk of fetal distress in labor, for suboptimal growth in utero, and for increased risk of stillbirth.
Medical research supports kick counting as an effective and reliable way to screen fetal well-being during the third trimester in both low- and high-risk pregnancies. If a woman feels less than 10 kicks in 2 hours during the time when the baby is usually active or if there is a significant change in the kick counts pattern, her doctor may recommend further testing. If problems are detected, intervention may be initiated to prevent stillbirth.
The MOMS Study (Study of Maternal Observations and Memories of Stillbirths), with 5000 moms who experienced stillbirths, has found that more than half of the mothers (nearly three quarter had unexplained stillbirths in the third trimester) reported their first reason to believe their baby was not doing well was a reduction in fetal activity. Half of the affected mothers had perceived a gradual reduction of fetal movement several days before the diagnosed fetal death.
8. What can you do to reduce the risk of stillbirth?
At this time, many stillbirths cannot be predicted and the causes are not completely understood. Many stillbirths happen in otherwise low-risk pregnancies. There are a few things pregnant women can do to help reduce the risk of stillbirth:
Discuss Kick Count with your obstetrical provider.
9. What happens after stillbirth occurs?
If stillbirth occurs before labor:
Your doctor can help you make a decision best for you and your emotional well-being. Allow yourself time to heal physically and emotionally. Allow family, friends, and support groups to help you get through your sadness and regain your strength.