Stillbirth occurs when an unborn baby dies in the womb before delivery. Every year, around 24,000 babies in the United States are stillborn, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you’re an expecting mom, here’s everything you need to know on how to prevent stillbirth.
This condition occurs to 1 in every 160 births in the U.S. Many factors affect a pregnant woman’s chances of having a stillborn baby, including age, race, medical history, and pregnancy complications.
Difference between stillbirth and miscarriage
Although both are considered tragic loss, these two terms are not interchangeable. Miscarriage often refers to the loss of the fetus before the 20th week of the pregnancy.
If the fetus died onward of the 20th week of gestation, it’s considered a stillborn baby. There are three classifications of stillbirth: early, late, or term.
- Early- 20-27 weeks
- Late- 28-36 weeks
- Term- 37 weeks or more
Experiencing a stillbirth once does not mean that future pregnancies are affected. In many cases, according to Web MD, many women who had a stillborn baby were able to give birth to a healthy baby in their next pregnancy.
Most common causes
Defining the exact cause of a stillbirth is not easy, but through the help of technology and advanced medical knowledge, experts are able to determine the most common causes that results to a stillborn baby.
1. Pregnancy complications
The most commons cause of having a stillborn baby are pregnancy complications, such as preterm labor, carrying multiple fetuses, or problems with the placenta and the umbilical cord.
In term stillbirth, the most persisting cause is umbilical cord problems. If the cord became knotted, this will prevent the baby from getting sufficient oxygen.
2. Mother’s health
Women who have pre-existing health conditions during their pregnancy have higher risks. According to Healthline, complications like diabetes, lupus, obesity, thrombophilia, and thyroid disorders increase your chances of having a stillborn baby.
Infections can also potentially cause a stillborn baby. Any type of infection in the mother, the fetus, or the placenta can be life-threatening to the baby. Some of the most common conditions are fifth disease, syphilis, toxoplasmosis, and genital herpes.
Ways to lessen your risk
Stillbirth is a pregnant mom’s greatest fear, but the good news is you can take certain precautions during pregnancy to lower your risk.
1. Never skip your checkups
According to NHS, women who never missed their hospital appointments have lower chances to have a stillborn baby. Through thorough examination during the pregnancy, doctors can immediately detect any problems or complications that may arise.
2. Maintain a healthy lifestyle
Obese or overweight women are at risk, so always make sure to maintain a healthy weight throughout your pregnancy. You don’t need to follow a strict diet, but consult with your doctor to find out what food are suitable for you and your baby.
3. Sleep on your side
According to studies, sleeping at your back during the second trimester might increase your risk of having a stillborn baby.
This position might affect the flow of blood and oxygen to your baby. For safety precaution, pregnant women are advised to sleep on their side especially when they reach 28 weeks onward.
4. Avoid vices
Smoking and drinking alcohol during your pregnancy can also cause complications for the baby. If you have any addiction, tell your doctor or midwife right away to get proper treatment.
5. Handle and prepare food carefully
During your pregnancy, be mindful on how you prepare your food. Wash your hands before eating and make sure to store your food properly.
Some foods can cause illnesses or infections, so best it’s best to avoid raw meat or unpasteurized milk.
If you feel like your baby’s movements are reduced, contact your midwife right away. Try to watch for any other signs such as bleeding in the vagina or abnormal discharge.