What is a stillbirth?

Stillbirth is when a baby is born after the 24th week of pregnancy without showing any signs of life.

If the death occurs in the womb, it is called intra-uterine and if it happens during labour it is know as intra-partum. If the baby dies in the womb, labour is induced. A baby dying before the 24th week is known as a miscarriage.

What causes it?

The exact causes of a stillbirth often remain unclear, although one sixth are thought to result from an abnormality present at birth or other complications during pregnancy such as pre-eclampsia. Other possible causes and risk factors include:

  • Smoking during pregnancy increases the chances of stillbirth

    Smoking while pregnant

  • Infection during pregnancy, such as listeriosis
  • The mother being under the age of 20 or over the age of 40
  • The mother being obese
  • Poor growth in the womb
  • Birth trauma – if the umbilical cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck, for example
  • Pre-existing health problems in the mother such as high blood pressure or diabetes
  • A problem with the placenta (when it separates from the womb too early)
  • A physical defect with the baby (possibly genetic)

How does it happen?

Many stillbirths are preceded by growth restrictions or reduced movement of the baby over a period of 24 hours. Some women suddenly go into labour.

When a stillbirth has been established, labour is usually induced. A Caserean section is not recommended due to the high risk of bleeding.

[adsense]What happens next?

Most women opt to hold their baby and some have a photo taken to help them come to terms with the death. Parents can then choose whether or not to have a post-mortem conducted, the results of which may or may not explain why the baby died. If it does, however, it may go a long way in helping to prevent the same thing from happening during a future pregnancy.

For this purpose, the mother may also choose to have her placenta examined or have a blood test to determine whether or not she has an underlying condition, such as the autoimmune disease lupus, which could have caused the stillbirth.

Grieving for a stillborn child is very difficult and parents often choose to have therapy to help them deal with the death.

Click here to read about what happens during an ectopic pregnancy, morning sickness and stretch marks.

Images: jhirsch and jkohen on Flikr

Does Lady Gaga have lupus?

Lady Gaga has hinted as maybe suffering from autoimmune disease lupus. During a candid interview with UK paper ‘The Times’, Lady Gaga has admitted to enjoying the occasional cigarette and taking ecstasy, and even admitted to taking medication to help her cope with fame and depressive thoughts.

“I can’t control my thoughts at all. I’m tortured. But I like that,” she said about consuming meds. “Lorca says it’s good to be tortured. The thoughts are unstoppable – but so is the music. It comes to me constantly.

One admission, however, is perhaps quite more serious than the others, because it involves a medical condition that, back when medicine wasn’t as advanced as it is today, used to be fatal. When asked whether she had any re-occurring illnesses, she answered: “I have heart palpitations and… things.

“[…] but it’s OK. It’s just from fatigue and other things. I’m very connected to my aunt, Joanne, who died of lupus. It’s a very personal thing. I don’t want my fans to be worried about me.”

Lupus is an autoimmune illness, which sees the body not only attacking outside bacteria, but also healthy tissue within the body. It is a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect different body systems, MayoClinic writes, including kidneys, joints, blood cells, skin, lungs and the heart.

Her allusive admission to having lupus explains a lot: it explains the cancelled tour dates, it explains emergency services assisting her before performances, and it explains her near-collapse on stage in Auckland, New Zealand. While the media has assumed Lady Gaga was suffering from stress and fame, there may be a serious medical problem to blame.

When asked whether she’s been tested for lupus, which is a genetic disease, she said: “Yes… But I don’t want anyone to be worried.”

During the interview she explains the last time she required emergency services was just a few days prior, in Tokyo.

“I was having trouble breathing,” she said. “I had a little oxygen, then I went on stage. I was OK. But like I say, I don’t want anyone to worry.”

The 24-year-old singer, whose real name is Stephanie Germanotta, doesn’t plan on slowing down, though.

“People say I should take a break, but I’m like, ‘Why should I take a break? What do you want me to do – go on vacation?’ ”she asks during the interview. That night, on stage, she said to her audience: “I’d rather not die on a vacation, under a palm tree. I’d rather die on stage, with all my props, in front of my fans.”

Images: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lady_GaGa_at_2009_MTV_VMA%27s.jpg, Author: Philip Nelson; http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gaga-monster-ball-uk-speechless.jpg, Author: Nelly

What is Lupus?

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus is a disease of the immune system, whereby the body’s defense mechanism begins to attack itself through excess production of antibodies in the blood. The illness can affect any organ in the body and symptoms can be incredibly diverse. So much so, that it has even been branded an imitator of other illnesses.

There is still no known cure for lupus, although in most cases it can be controlled. The Lupus Foundation of America (LFA) estimates that 1.5 million Americans, and at least five million people worldwide, have a form of lupus.

Accoring to lupus.about.com, the term lupus was coined by a thirteenth century physician because the disease looked like wolf bites (lupus in latin means wolf).

What causes Lupus?

Although the exact causes are unknown, some factors are known to trigger the condition and some people are more at risk than others. LFA has these figures:

  • 90% of sufferers are women with the majority being of child-bearing age. It is also two to three times more prevalent among non- Caucasian females
  • 20% of people with lupus will have a parent or sibling who is already a sufferer or may develop it
  • About 5% of the children born to individuals with lupus will develop the illness

An alteration to the immune system is usually at the root of the problem. So, the disease is most likely to take hold during a time of hormonal and immune system change. Lupus West Midlands says:

  • Puberty or menopause
  • After childbirth
  • After a viral infection
  • After a traumatic event
  • As a result of a prolonged course of medication

What are the symptoms?

As mentioned, symptoms can vary greatly. St Thomas’ Lupus Trust lists some common ones:

  • Hair loss, which is usually the first sign of the disease
  • Skin rashes, often on cheeks and bridge of nose
  • Fatigue may be the most common symptom, sometimes accompanied by memory problems and depression
  • Dry eyes as a result of poor tear secretion
  • Pain in the joints, not dissimilar to pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis

How is it diagnosed?

There are multiple ways of screening for the disease. But due to its deceptive nature, it often takes time to be diagnosed.

A LFA survey of its members suggests that more than half of those afflicted with lupus suffered at least four years, and saw three or more doctors before obtaining a correct diagnosis of lupus. Nearly half of those surveyed were first examined by a rheumatologist.

How is it treated?

There are many different types of medication, in varying degress of strength, which primarily aim to supress the overactive immune system and reduce inflamation. Most patients get better over a period of time. St Thomas’ Lupus Trust lists the four common drug groups used to treat the condition:

  • Aspirin and Non Steroidals
  • Anti-malarials
  • Steroids
  • Immuno-suppressives

Celebrities known to have the condition include British singer Seal, who has a strain of the disease called discoid lupus erythematosus. This primarily affects the skin.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Seal has scars in his face from lupus

Many have speculated about singing legend Seal Samuel’s facial scars. It has been rumoured that the 46-year-old was caught up in violence in his younger years. In fact, Seal suffers from an auto-immune disease called discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE). According to The Lupus Book, only 10% of lupus sufferers are plighted by this particular strain. The exact causes of the ailment remain unknown, though it is thought to be passed down genetically.

“Thick, scaly lesions appear on these patients’ skin, especially skin that is exposed to sunlight. If untreated, the lesions can turn cancerous“, Daniel J Wallace, author of The Lupus book suggests. The trademark scarring which is visible on Seal’s face, is thought to be a result of these aforementioned lesions.

Public announcements made by the British soul singer indicate that he showed no signs of the disease until he was a young adult. At the Lupus LA Orange Ball in Beverly Hills last year he commented: “You’ve all shown your generosity and your support, and as a 20-or-so-odd-year sufferer myself, I feel really fortunate to be in the position to contribute,“ Socialite Life reported.

Seal, who is married to German supermodel Heidi Klum, performed four songs at the event. The newsprovider also stated: “The Lupus Research Institute announced it had established a grant in Seal’s name that will go to lupus-related initiatives.“

The musician has had many hits since his career took off in 1991 with the release of debut album “Seal“. In 2004, his Best Of compilation went on sale and the singer continued to produce albums, including “System“ and “Soul“.

He married Klum in 2005, having known her for just under two years. The model was dating Flavio Briatore when the two met, announcing her split from the the Italian Renault Formula One team director shortly afterwards. The German beauty was pregnant with Briatore’s baby, Helene “Leni” Boshoven, at the time, who has since been officially adopted by Seal. According to USA Today, Klum stated that “Seal is Leni’s father“ in all but the biological sense.

The pair also have three other children together – four-year-old Henry Günther Adeola Dashtu, three-year-old Johan Riley Fyodor Taiwo and Lou Sulola, who was born in October 2009.

Other celebrities with skin ailments include Melanie Griffith and Bob Marley, who both battled skin cancer, and singer LeAnn Rimes, who suffers from eczema.

Image: Vinne Oliveira, Wikimedia