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If a woman loses a pregnancy after she's past her 20th week, it's called a stillbirth. Stillbirths are due to natural causes. They can happen before delivery or during delivery. Causes include:
- Problems with the placenta, the organ that transports oxygen and nutrients to the fetus
- Genetic problems with the fetus
- Fetal infections
- Other physical problems in the fetus
In at least half of all cases, it is not possible to tell why the baby died.
If stillbirth happens before delivery, your health care provider may induce labor or perform a Cesarean section to deliver the fetus. In some cases, you can wait until you go into labor yourself. This usually happens within two weeks of stillbirth.
Counseling may help you cope with your grief. Later, if you do decide to try again, work closely with your health care provider to lower the risks. Many women who have a stillbirth go on to have healthy babies.
NIH: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
- Pregnancy Loss (Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health) Also in Spanish
- Stillbirth (Cleveland Clinic Foundation)
- What Is Stillbirth? (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Diagnosis and Tests
- Karyotype Genetic Test (National Library of Medicine) Also in Spanish
- FAQs about Pregnancy Loss (Before 20 Weeks of Pregnancy) (Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development) Also in Spanish
- Recurrent Pregnancy Loss (RPL) (American Society for Reproductive Medicine) Also in Spanish
Statistics and Research
- Infant Mortality (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Stillbirth Data and Statistics (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Fetal Death (National Institutes of Health)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Stillbirth (National Institutes of Health)
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: Household polluting cooking fuels and adverse birth outcomes: An updated systematic...
- Article: Trends and risk factors of stillbirth among women of reproductive age...
- Article: Recognising stillbirth as a loss of life and not a baby...
- Stillbirth -- see more articles
Find an Expert
- Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Also in Spanish
- Find an Ob-Gyn (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists)
- March of Dimes Foundation Also in Spanish
- When your baby is stillborn (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish