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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Stillbirth
      Category : Health Centers > Pregnancy and Childbirth


Alternate Names : Intrauterine Fetal Death

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Stillbirth is a term used to describe a baby that dies before delivery but after 20 weeks of pregnancy. It is slightly different than a miscarriage. Miscarriage describes a fetus that dies before 20 weeks of pregnancy.

What is going on in the body?

The death of a stillborn infant occurs while it is still inside the mother's womb, or uterus. It can occur due to several different and often unknown causes. A stillbirth can be emotionally devastating to the parents.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Some of the known causes of stillbirth include:

  • infections in the mother or baby, such as fifth disease or the TORCH infections. These include toxoplasmosis, other infections, rubella, cytomegalovirus, and herpes.
  • placenta or umbilical cord problems. The placenta and umbilical cord connect the baby to the mother's womb. The placenta may separate from the womb too early or bleeding from the cord or placenta may occur.
  • trauma or injury, usually to the mother's abdomen
  • high blood pressure in the mother, which may or may not be related to the pregnancy
  • diabetes in the mother
  • birth defects in the child affecting the lungs, heart, brain, or kidneys
  • Rh incompatibility, which may occur when the mother and baby have different blood types
  • an autoimmune disorder in the mother, a condition in which a person's immune system attacks his or her own body
  • Other causes are also possible. In at least 50% of the cases, the cause is not known.


    Next section


    Stillbirth: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Adam Brochert, MD
    Reviewer: Lama Rimawi, MD
    Date Reviewed: 06/07/01

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