What are the Most Common Causes of Stillbirth?

A stillbirth is something that no expectant parent wants to go through.  A stillbirth is the loss of a pregnancy any time after the 20th week of pregnancy.  Before the 20th week, the loss of the pregnancy is known as a miscarriage.  While a miscarriage can be traumatic, a stillbirth can often be even more so, because the parents have had much more time to look forward to their baby.  A stillbirth toward the end of pregnancy can be especially difficult.  Making it worse is the fact that doctors are only able to exactly determine the cause of a stillbirth in under half of the cases.

Still, there are some common known causes of stillbirth.  One of the more common causes, which is thought to cause around a quarter of stillbirths, is a birth defect with the baby.  These birth defects tend to be different from the chromosomal defects that are the leading cause of miscarriage during the early stages of pregnancy, however.

Problems with the baby’s umbilical cord or the placenta are also common causes of stillbirth.  The umbilical cord and placenta provide your baby with the nutrients, blood, and oxygen that she needs.  When there is a problem with the cord or the placenta, it can cause any number of problems from certain birth defects up to and including stillbirth.  Problems of the placenta or umbilical cord account for less stillbirths than birth defects, however.

Sometimes, maternal conditions can lead to stillbirth.  Gestational diabetes, pregnancy-induced hypertension, or even thyroid problems can cause a baby to be stillborn.  In most cases, proper management of these conditions can greatly reduce the risk of having a stillborn baby.

Just as with miscarriage, mothers who use certain types of illicit medications or medications that are contraindicated for pregnancy may be at a much higher risk of stillbirth.  There is also some risk of stillbirth associated with the consumption of too much alcohol as well as with tobacco smoking.

There are many other possible cause of stillbirth, but birth defects, cord or placenta problems, and maternal conditions seem to be the most common causes overall.



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