Causes & Contributing Risk Factors of Stillbirth

Just like with miscarriage, the cause of stillbirth is not always determined, even after an autopsy. In the cases where the cause is known some possibilities of the cause are:

Placental Abruptions:
Placental abruption is a complication of pregnancy where the placenta has peeled away from the uterus. It is the most common cause of late pregnancy bleeding which can be quite heavy and threaten the life of both mother and baby. The placental tear can cause fetal distress and/or death from lack of oxygen.

Birth Defects:
Studies have shown that approximately 20% of stillbirth cases are a result of the baby having one or more birth defect/chromosomal abnormality.

Umbilical Cord Accidents:
Umbilical cord accidents including, prolapse, knot or abnormal placement to placenta account for approximately 2-4% of stillbirths.

Bacterial Infection:
Infections in the mother, baby or placenta can all be a cause of stillbirth. Infections such as bladder/urinary tract infections, fifths disease or listeria are main causes of stillbirth due to infection. Often times symptoms of these infections are not present in the mother and are not diagnosed until serious complications or preterm labor starts.

Chronic Maternal Health Issues:
Stillbirth may be related to chronic health conditions of the mother including diabetes, clotting disorders, kidney disorder or high blood pressure. Sometimes these conditions can contribute to poor fetal growth or placental abruptions.

Other:
Very rarely stillbirth can be a result of physical trauma (like a car accident), Rh disease or postdate pregnancy (later then 42 weeks gestation). Also rare are stillbirths as a result of oxygen deprivation due to difficult delivery.

Risk Factors Associated with Stillbirth include:

  • smoking, alcohol or recreational drug use
  • maternal age over 35
  • multiple gestation (twins +)

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About the author: Devan McGuinness

is the founder of the online resource Unspoken Grief , which is dedicated to breaking the silence of perinatal grief for those directly and indirectly affected by miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death. Using her own experience of surviving 12 miscarriages, Devan has been actively supporting and encouraging others who are wading through the challenges associated with perinatal and neonatal loss.

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