A stillbirth is when a baby dies at 20 weeks of pregnancy or later. Stillbirth is quite common and it can be a very difficult experience for couples to deal with. Most stillbirths occur before labour and only a small percentage occur during labour and delivery.
In most cases, the cause of stillbirth is not exactly known. When a cause can be identified, it may be one of such factors like chromosomal abnormality, placental problems, infections and trauma or injury during pregnancy.
Stillbirth can occur in any pregnancy but certain factors put a woman at a greater risk. If you are planning to get pregnant or you are pregnant already, knowing these factors would help you identify if you are at risk; that is, it will help you identify if you are more likely than other women to have stillbirth. Here are some of them:
- Having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher
- 35 or older
- Carrying more than one baby
- Chronic medical condition like diabetes, kidney disease and high blood pressure
- Previous stillbirth or miscarriage
- Complications in a previous pregnancy. These complications include pre-eclampsia and premature delivery
- Smoking, consuming alcohol, using hard drugs and taking prescription painkillers during pregnancy
- Inadequate prenatal care
If you are at risk of stillbirth, there are nevertheless things you can do to reduce your risk:
- Before you get pregnant, ensure you see your doctor so you can get checked
- If you have any health condition like diabetes or high blood pressure, control it properly before you get pregnant. Inform your doctor that you are planning to get pregnant. If necessary, your doctor might change your medications to one that’s safe to use during pregnancy
- If you are overweight or obese, lose weight
- When you are pregnant, do not smoke cigarette, use hard drugs like cocaine or heroin and do not consume alcohol. It is also important that you avoid taking pain killers without your doctor’s consent.
- If you notice anything unusual during your pregnancy, visit the hospital right away. Symptoms such as vaginal bleeding, severe abdominal pain and reduced fetal movements are good reasons to see a doctor