Following are the most recent facts on stillbirth and ways to reduce the risk.
- Stillbirth is the death of an infant in-utero at 20 or more completed gestational weeks. 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.
- One in 160 American pregnancies ends in stillbirth.
- Almost 50 percent of these deaths occur at or near full term and often seem to be otherwise healthy babies. The majority of stillbirths (85%) occur before delivery with 15% occurring during labor and delivery.
- It is estimated that nearly two-thirds of all stillbirth deaths remain unexplained. Researchers feel that this is more likely due to a failure to investigate the deaths, rather than a medical mystery.
- Stillbirth deaths cut across all socio-economic classes, races, religions and maternal age groups. No family is immune.
- Some of the more common diagnosable causes for stillbirth are: placental abruption and other placental problems, birth defects and chromosomal abnormalities, uncontrolled diabetes, pre-eclampsia, cord accidents and infections.
- The risk factors for stillbirth include: advanced maternal age; no previous pregnancies; pregnancy past due date; maternal obesity; maternal smoking; prior stillbirth, neonatal death or other fetal losses; uncontrolled maternal diabetes; maternal hypertension or hypotension; baby with intrauterine growth restriction; and IVF pregnancies.
- Few parents are encouraged to obtain a stillbirth evaluation (autopsy, placental exam or other clinical testing) to determine the cause of death.
- Mothers who suffer a stillbirth do not receive recognition in many states. There is no standard record keeping for babies who do not take a breath.
- Begin to monitor your baby’s activity at around 28 weeks. Learn to ‘know’ your baby and his or her behavior. Let your doctor know if your baby becomes extremely hyperactive or you notice a marked decrease in activity. Begin kick counting at 28 weeks. Your baby’s hiccups in the third trimester that are experienced more than 5 times a day for more than 10 minutes duration should be brought to the attention of your doctor.
- Request that your doctor perform a third trimester diagnostic ultrasound around 28 weeks to specifically look for placental and/or umbilical cord issues such as wraps, kinks, knots, twists, and torsion. If noted, ask about home fetal monitoring.
- Do not smoke, drink alcohol or use drugs (unless prescribed by your doctor)
- Report any vaginal bleeding, leakage or sharp pain
- If you are post-term, discuss options with your doctor. Pregnancies longer than 40 weeks may be at increased risk for stillbirth
- Do not hesitate to request a second or third opinion anytime during your pregnancy if needed to put your mind at ease. Trust your instincts.