Losing a baby can be one of the most traumatic experiences that a couple can go through. It can cause unspeakable suffering and pain, and can be especially frustrating after numerous cycles of IVF or IUI. Most miscarriages occur early in pregnancy, often before a woman even knows that she is pregnant. Sometimes, however, a baby can be lost later in pregnancy. This type of pregnancy loss is called a stillbirth. Though uncommon, it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of stillbirth.
Stillbirth vs Miscarriage
The terms stillbirth and miscarriage can sometimes be confusing. Both refer to the loss of a pregnancy, however, stillbirth occurs later in pregnancy. A stillbirth is the loss of a fetus after the 20th week of development, while a miscarriage refers to a loss before the 20th week. Some stillbirths can occur right up to the time of labor and delivery. Stillbirths are much less common then miscarriages, occurring in only 1 out of every 200 pregnancies.
What are the Signs of Stillbirth?
During pregnancy, it is important that you keep an eye out for the signs of stillbirth. By monitoring your baby carefully, it may be possible for you to actually prevent a stillbirth from occurring. Common signs of a stillbirth include:
- vaginal bleeding
- a decrease in your baby’s movements
- no movement from your baby
What Causes Stillbirth?
There a variety of different causes of stillbirth. If you do experience a stillbirth, your health care provider will examine you and your baby in order to determine a cause.
Chromosomal abnormalities are one of the most common causes of miscarriage and they can also induce stillbirth. Sometimes, a baby develops without the appropriate chromosomes for proper development. These babies can suffer from severe physical abnormalities and mental defects. Your body can often tell when your baby isn’t developing properly and will choose to end the pregnancy, possibly in stillbirth. Sometimes, health problems caused by these chromosomal defects will also cause the death of a baby in utero.
Placental abruption can seriously affect your baby’s ability to breathe and receive nourishment. Your placenta delivers the necessary oxygen, food, and vitamins to your baby. During placental abruption, your placenta detaches from the wall of your uterus, interfering with the supply of oxygen and nutrients. This can cause your baby to die.
Who’s at Risk for a Stillbirth?
Many expectant couples wonder if they are at risk for having a stillborn baby. Though any woman can have a stillbirth, certain factors do increase your risk for experiencing fetal death. Common risk factors include:
- drinking alcohol during pregnancy
- using narcotics during pregnancy
- taking certain medications during pregnancy
- suffering from untreated preeclampsia during pregnancy
Diagnosing a Stillbirth
If you are experiencing signs or symptoms of a stillbirth, it is important to see your health care provider right away. Though it is very distressing to be diagnosed with a stillbirth, diagnosis is necessary in order to prevent further complications. Your health care provider will perform an ultrasound in order to examine the health of your baby. She will also listen to your baby’s heart rate with a fetal doppler.
Treatment for a Stillbirth
If your health care provider recognizes that you have had a stillbirth, she will discuss your treatment options. Typically, a stillbirth will resolve naturally and require no treatment. Your body will go into natural labor within two weeks to birth your baby. However, because it can be very distressing to have to wait for your body to go into labor naturally, some women opt to have labor induced immediately after stillbirth is diagnosed. Your health care provider can give you certain medications which will encourage your body to begin contractions so that you can give birth.
Thanks to new knowledge about prenatal health and pregnancy, the number of stillbirths has begun to decline rapidly. In fact, the number of stillbirths in the United States has dropped by 50% in the last 20 years. Work to protect you and your baby against stillbirth by following these simple suggestions:
Get Proper Prenatal Care:
Prenatal care is the best thing that you can do for you and your baby. Keeping regular prenatal care appointments will help to ensure that you and your little one are as healthy as possible. Prenatal care also helps to identify possible problems early in pregnancy, so that they can be resolved without complication.
Monitor Your Baby’s Movements:
Keeping track of how often your baby moves will help you to recognize any possible complications right away. After the 25th week of pregnancy, you will begin to notice your baby’s movements. Each time your baby kicks, write it down in your diary or datebook. If your baby kicks less than ten times a day, consult your health care provider. You can rent a fetal doppler to monitor your baby’s heart rate too.
Avoid Taking Pregnancy Risks:
Now is not the time to gamble with your safety – after all, you are now responsible for the well being of your child. Avoid drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, and taking street drugs, and check with your health care provider before using any medications. Also, be careful when you exercise during pregnancy. It is fun and healthy to follow a safe exercise routine, but don’t sign up for any dangerous sports. These could put you and your baby in danger.