Merck Manual

Please confirm that you are not located inside the Russian Federation

honeypot link
Quick Facts



The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Jun 2021| Content last modified Jun 2021
Click here for the Professional Version
Get the full details

What is a stillbirth?

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 your unborn baby), your baby, or your body.

Problems with the placenta

Problems with your baby

  • Abnormal genes or chromosomes

  • A birth defect

  • An infection

Problems with your body

What are the symptoms of a stillbirth?

Often, after your baby dies, you go into labor. During labor, your doctor will see that the baby has died.

Sometimes the baby 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 baby move or kick

  • Bleeding from your vagina

  • Cramps

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 your baby'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 Ultrasonography (moving pictures of the inside of your uterus).

What do doctors do if I have a stillbirth?

If you've delivered the baby and the placenta, you won't need any treatment.

If the baby 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 baby 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 the loss of your baby

  • Remind yourself that it’s very unlikely you did something to cause your stillbirth

  • 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

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version
Others also read

Test your knowledge

Anemia of Chronic Disease
Anemia is often caused by chronic disease, defined as any disease lasting 3 or more months. Autoimmune disorders, in which the body attacks its own tissues, are a common cause of this type of anemia. Which of the following autoimmune disorders most often causes anemia?
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID

Also of Interest

Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID