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 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.