Star Legacy Foundation

About Stillbirth

  • Stillbirth is the death of an infant before or during delivery at 20 or more completed gestational weeks. (ACOG, 2009)
  • More than 26,000 babies are stillborn in the United States each year – 71 per day. Worldwide there are over 4 million stillbirths each year. (MacDorman, Kirmeyer, & Wilson, 2012)
  • One in every 160 American pregnancies ends in stillbirth. (ACOG, 2009)
  • The stillbirth rate for African American women is double the stillbirth rate for women of other races. (MacDorman, Kirmeyer, & Wilson, 2012)
  • Almost 50 percent of stillbirths occur at or near full term and often seem to be otherwise healthy babies. (SCRN, 2011)
  • The majority of stillbirths (85%) occur before delivery with 15% occurring during labor and delivery. (SMFM, 2010)
  • Nearly 2/3 of all stillbirth deaths remain unexplained. (SCRN, 2011)
  • 77% of families never worried their baby would die after the first trimester. (Pullen et al, 2012)
  • Stillbirth deaths cut across all socio-economic classes, races, religions and maternal age groups. (ACOG, 2009)
  • The stillbirth rate in the United States has not changed in the last 50 years(SCRN, 2011)
  • More babies are stillborn every year than die from prematurity and SIDS combined(SMFM, 2010)
  • The United States ranks 48th out of 49 developed nations in the world for annual rate of reduction of stillbirths. (Lawn, 2016)
  • “Stillbirth is the most under-studied issue in medicine today”. (Lancet, 2011)
  • “Perhaps the greats obstacle to addressing stillbirths is stigma.” (Horton, 2016)

What causes stillbirth?

  • Most common causes include:
    • placental abruption, placental insufficiency, or other placental problems
    • birth defects and chromosomal abnormalities
    • uncontrolled diabetes
    • pre-eclampsia/eclampsia
    • umbilical cord accidents
    • infections
    • unknown

Which pregnancies are at risk for stillbirth?

While no pregnancy is immune, the following characteristics have been associated with an increased risk of stillbirth and other poor pregnancy outcomes.

  • advanced maternal age
  • no previous pregnancies (primiparity)
  • pregnancy past due date
  • maternal obesity
  • maternal use of alcohol, tobacco, or other recreational substances
  • prior stillbirth, neonatal death or other poor pregnancy outcomes
  • maternal diabetes or gestational diabetes
  • maternal diseases such as cholestastis, auto-immune disorders, renal conditions
  • maternal hypertension or hypotension (high or low blood pressure)
  • baby with intrauterine growth restriction
  • pregnancies conceived using assisted reproduction techniques
  • Multiple gestation pregnancies (twins, triplets, or more)
  • Reduced fetal movements
  • Umbilical cord abnormalities (knots, hypercoiling, 2-vessels, etc)
  • African American or American Indian ethnicity
  • Lower socioeconomic status
  • Too much or too little amniotic fluid (polyhydramnios or oligohydramnios)
  • Poor access to care
  • Little to no prenatal care
  • Trauma
  • Maternal stress
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