Stillbirth is the death of a baby before it is born, from week 20 onward. About 1 out of every 100 pregnancies ends in stillbirth, about 1 percent. The death of your baby may be known prior to the labor and delivery or you may not know about it until after labor and delivery.
This type of loss can be caused by placental abruption, where the placenta pulls away from the wall of the uterus, depriving your baby of much-needed oxygenated blood. Sometimes there is an infection in the uterus to which your baby succumbs.
While stillbirths still occur at a fairly steady rate of 1 percent, the majority of the time the cause of the stillbirth will never be known. It is still unlikely to occur again in the same family, unless a repeating factor is found.
No matter why your baby has died, it is horribly painful and you have many decisions that will have to be made in a very short period of time. You must decide on how to give birth to your baby. Will you wait for labor to start? Perhaps an induction to labor is your preference in this situation. Discuss your options with your doctor.
You will also be asked about testing. You can choose to have an autopsy performed in some instances; in some states it is mandatory. The placenta will be examined and tested for infections and bacteria.
Depending on when in your pregnancy you give birth to your baby, you may choose to bury your baby and have a memorial service. Some states do not make this a requirement if your baby was very small or very young. These requirements vary from state to state. A hospital social worker will be able to give you details and help you make decisions.
Many families find it very important to make special memories with the baby when it is stillborn. You can choose to see and hold your baby. You can even take pictures and movies. Your extended family may also wish to participate in activities like this, including dressing or bathing your baby.
If you choose or are unable to do these tasks at the time, many hospitals will have a file of photos and keepsakes for you, in case you change your mind down the road about wanting photos and special items from your baby.