Stillborn Birth

Facts on Stillbirth

About 1 in 200 pregnancies ends in a stillbirth (fetal death after 20 weeks' gestation), reports the March of Dimes. These losses are often unexpected-up to half occur in pregnancies that had seemed problem-free. The most common causes of stillbirth include placental problems (such as placental abruption or other conditions that prevent the placenta from supplying enough oxygen and nutrients to the fetus), chromosomal abnormalities, and infection. Less frequent culprits are umbilical cord accidents, death during delivery, trauma, and maternal diabetes or high blood pressure. In more than a third of cases, the stillbirth is unexplained. "There often are no physical symptoms to alert you to a potential stillbirth," says Bruce Flamm, M.D., a Parents advisory-board member and a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, Irvine. "You should be aware of your unborn baby's movement, but not consumed by it." After your 26th week, if you notice fewer than ten kicks every two hours, feel that your baby is moving less than usual, or experience any vaginal bleeding, call your doctor immediately. Tests such as an ultrasound or fetal-heart-rate monitoring can help assess your baby's well-being.

Copyright © 2001 Nadine Benton. Reprinted with permission from the March 2001 issue of Parents magazine.

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