A stillbirth is the death of a baby in the womb in the second half of pregnancy. The medical term for stillbirth is
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For about half of all stillbirths, no medical reason can be determined. In other cases, there are problems with the placenta, umbilical cord, mother's health, or birth defects. It is important to understand that a stillbirth is not the mother's fault. There is nothing she can do to prevent it, other than getting good prenatal care and following her doctor's recommendations. Also keep in mind that the vast majority of women over 35 will not experience a stillbirth.
The biggest sign or symptom of a stillbirth is a decrease or lack of fetal movement in the uterus. Vaginal bleeding may be another indication there is a problem. If you experience either of these symptoms, you should call your doctor immediately. Your physician will check for a heartbeat using a handheld Doppler and may perform an ultrasound.
For support and information about stillbirth, contact the National Stillbirth Society at
If a baby dies in the uterus, the mother will still need to go through labor and delivery (which may happen naturally or need to be induced) to expel the remains. This can be difficult and traumatic. Whether the pregnancy ends early in stillbirth or goes to term and has the terrible outcome of stillbirth, parents are encouraged to hold the baby and spend time with him. You can also ask for mementos such as ID bracelets and photos. Your physician will perform a series of blood tests and send the placenta for evaluation. She may also wish to perform an autopsy to determine the cause of the stillbirth, but that decision is up to the parents. Deciding on an autopsy can be difficult at time of loss. However, if a cause can be found, it may provide closure as well as emotional relief. It may also help to prevent a similar occurrence in your next pregnancy. If you face stillbirth, do not be afraid to ask for help, such as a grief counselor.
If a woman has a stillbirth, it does not seem to increase her odds of a future stillbirth. While younger women might be encouraged to wait several months before trying to conceive again, women over 35 are usually encouraged to attempt conception six to eight weeks afterward.