STILLBORN AND CAUSES IN PREGNANCY
The medical definition of stillbirth is the birth of a baby who is born without any signs of life at or after 24 weeks of pregnancy. The baby may have died during pregnancy (called intrauterine death), labor or birth. Stillbirth is uncommon.
When a baby dies before delivery, many people commonly think of miscarriage. Both stillbirth and miscarriage are types of pregnancy loss, but they differ by when the loss occurs. A miscarriage (sometimes called a spontaneous abortion) is when a baby dies before the 20th week of pregnancy. Stillbirth is the death of a baby after the 20th week of pregnancy but before delivery. Whenever parents deal with the death of their baby, whether it be early in pregnancy, late in pregnancy, or sometime after birth, there can be a great sense of disappointment, loss, and suffering.
Stillbirth and miscarriage are separately defined not because one or the other is an easier or more difficult loss with which to deal, but because they differ in many ways. Stillbirth and miscarriage have different causes, need different evaluations, and differ medically and in the ways that parents and families can best be helped.
Stillbirth is common. It may affect anyone. There is no way to predict when stillbirth will happen or who will experience it. Stillbirth occurs in families of all races, religions, and income levels. Each year in the United States about 25,000 babies, or 68 babies every day, are born still. This is about 1 stillbirth in every 115 births. Most often a stillbirth is detected while the baby is in the mother’s uterus, sometimes not until labor is underway.
What are the causes of stillbirth in pregnancy?
While the cause of around 30% of stillbirths is unknown, there are some conditions that can lead to a baby being born sleeping.
Problems with the placenta, which nourishes your baby throughout your pregnancy, can lead to a stillbirth in about two-thirds of cases. In a placental abruption, the placenta separates too soon from the uterine wall.
However, we do know of some factors that may lead to stillbirth:
- A problem with the umbilical cord, which attaches the placenta to the baby’s tummy button. This could cause the cord to slip down through the entrance of the womb before the baby is born (cord prolapse), or become wrapped around the baby and knotted.
- Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP) or obstetric cholestasis – a liver disorder during pregnancy characterized by severe itching.
- Pre-eclampsia – a condition that causes high blood pressure in the mother.
- Environmental factors – such as exposure to pesticides or carbon monoxide.
- A problem with the way the baby is born. A baby’s shoulders may get stuck as he leaves the birth canal (shoulder dystocia), severely reducing oxygen flow to him.
- Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) – this means that the fetus grows too slowly, putting the fetus at risk of dying from lack of nutrition.
- Infections in the mother that also infects the baby – this could be: rubella, the flu, group B streptococcus, herpes, chlamydia, Lyme disease, Klebsiella, Enterococcus, Haemophilus influenza, and mycoplasma or Ureaplasma. According to the NHS, around one in 10 stillbirths are caused by an infection.