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An Overview of Stillbirth

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP

A stillbirth can be devastating for a New York family, and there may be many questions about the reasons for the intrauterine death of a child. A delivery of a child who has died in utero after at least 20 weeks of gestation occurs in approximately one pregnancy out of 160. Most instances occur before labor has begun although some cases coincide with the labor process.

Determining the Cause of Stillbirth

One of the most effective ways to pinpoint a cause of stillbirth is an autopsy, but not all hospitals include this as standard procedure. A family dealing with a stillbirth may need to request an autopsy if this action is desired for understanding more about the situation. It is also helpful to understand some of the more common issues that can contribute to stillbirth. Placental abruption, the tearing of the placenta from the uterus, can result in oxygen deprivation that might lead to an in-utero death or other pregnancy-related injury. Women with high blood pressure during pregnancy face twice the risk of stillbirth as those whose blood pressure remains stable.

A bacterial infection could lead to an in-utero death. Babies who don’t grow properly in the womb are at a greater risk of fetal death. Genetic issues are estimated to be responsible for up to 20 percent of cases. In rare cases, gestational diabetes, postdate pregnancy, trauma, or umbilical cord incidents can play a role in stillbirth. An estimated 33 percent of such incidents involve causes that cannot be identified.

A woman whose pregnancy is identified as a high-risk scenario may be concerned about the well-being of her child and should expect careful monitoring on the part of a healthcare provider. In some cases, a C-section might be recommended to deliver an at-risk baby before in-utero conditions deteriorate. Failure to take such action might be construed as negligence, exposing a provider to medical malpractice claims.

Source: American Pregnancy Association , “Stillbirth: Trying To Understand“, December 03, 2014

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