Intrauterine Fetal Demise

Stillbirth is typically defined as fetal death at or after 20 or 28 weeks of pregnancy, depending on the source.[1][2][8] It results in a baby born without signs of life.[2] A stillbirth can result in the feeling of guilt or grief in the mother.[9] The term is in contrast to miscarriage, which is an early pregnancy loss, and live birth, where the baby is born alive, even if it dies shortly after.[9]

Often the cause is unknown.[1] Causes may include pregnancy complications such as pre-eclampsia and birth complications, problems with the placenta or umbilical cordbirth defects, infections such as malaria and syphilis, and poor health in the mother.[2][3][10] Risk factors include a mother’s age over 35, smoking, drug use, use of assisted reproductive technology, and first pregnancy.[4] Stillbirth may be suspected when no fetal movement is felt.[5] Confirmation is by ultrasound.[5]

Worldwide prevention of most stillbirths is possible with improved health systems.[2][11] Around half of stillbirths occur during childbirth, with this being more common in the developing than developed world.[2] Otherwise, depending on how far along the pregnancy is, medications may be used to start labor or a type of surgery known as dilation and evacuation may be carried out.[6] Following a stillbirth, people are at higher risk of another one; however, most subsequent pregnancies do not have similar problems.[12] Depressionfinancial loss, and family breakdown are known complications.[11]

Worldwide in 2019, there were an estimated 2.0 million stillbirths that occurred after 28 weeks of pregnancy (about 1 for every 72 births).[13] They occur most commonly in low income settings, particularly South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.[2] In the United States, for every 167 births there is one stillbirth.[14] Stillbirth rates have declined, though more slowly since the 2000s.[15]


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