Stillbirth occurs when a baby is lost after 24 weeks of pregnancy; the baby may die inside the womb (known as an intra-uterine stillbirth) or during labour (known as an intra-partum stillbirth). Stillbirth is rare, affecting only 5 in every 1,000 births.
What causes stillbirth?
In most cases, the exact cause of the stillbirth is unknown but there are several factors which could contribute to stillbirth; these include:
- Pre-eclampsia: this condition is caused by issues relating to the placenta; it causes the mother’s blood pressure to rise and may cause problems with the blood supply to the baby
- Complications during childbirth; for example, if the umbilical cord gets wrapped around the baby’s neck
- Infections or illnesses during pregnancy, including bacterial infections such as listeriosis and viral infections
- A genetic defect in the foetus
Additional risk factors may include:
- Being overweight or obese
- Having a multiple birth
- Having diabetes
- Having hypertension (high blood pressure) or problems with blood clotting
- Being younger than 20 or older than 40