What is a stillbirth?
Stillbirth is when you've been pregnant for 20 weeks or more and your fetus (baby) dies before it's born
Stillbirth is the same as a miscarriage Miscarriage Miscarriage is when your pregnancy ends before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Most miscarriages happen in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Bleeding and cramping are common signs of miscarriage If you... read more , except that a miscarriage occurs before 20 weeks and stillbirth occurs after 20 weeks
What causes a stillbirth?
Not all stillbirths are caused by the same problem. Doctors do tests to figure out the cause of a stillbirth. Often, they don’t find any cause. Sometimes they find a problem with the placenta (the organ that feeds the fetus), the fetus, or your body.
Problems with the placenta
When the placenta pulls away from the uterus too early (placental abruption Placental Abruption Placental abruption is the premature detachment of the placenta from the wall of the uterus, usually after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Women may have abdominal pain and tenderness and vaginal bleeding... read more )
Problems that cause less blood to get to the fetus (which means less oxygen and nutrients)
Problems with the fetus
Abnormal genes or chromosomes
A birth defect
Problems with your body
Use of substances, such as cocaine, alcohol, or tobacco
A blood clotting problem
A problem in your thyroid gland
What are the symptoms of a stillbirth?
Often, after the fetus dies, you go into labor. During labor, your doctor will see that the fetus has died.
Sometimes the fetus dies but you don't go into labor. You may have no symptoms for a while. Other times there are obvious symptoms:
Not feeling the fetus move or kick
Bleeding from your vagina
How can doctors tell if I have a stillbirth?
Call your doctor right away if you have symptoms of a stillbirth. The doctor will do tests to check the fetus's health, such as an ultrasound Ultrasonography Ultrasonography is a safe imaging test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the insides of your body. Ultrasonography doesn't use radiation (x-rays). Ultrasonography is also called... read more (moving pictures of the inside of your uterus).
What do doctors do if I have a stillbirth?
If you've delivered the fetus and the placenta, you won't need any treatment.
If the fetus or the placenta are still in your body, they need to come out. Your doctor might:
Use a medicine that can start labor
Remove the fetus and the placenta using surgical instruments put into your uterus (womb) through your vagina (birth canal)
If doctors need to do a surgical procedure, they will give you anesthesia (medicine to put you to sleep).
It's normal to feel grief, anger, and guilt after a stillbirth.
Consider talking with another person if you feel sad and are grieving your loss
If you’re worried about having another stillbirth, talk to a doctor who can discuss possible tests if needed
Remember that many women who have a stillbirth get pregnant again and give birth to healthy babies
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