Having a stillborn baby is perhaps every soon-to-be new parent’s biggest fear – similar to the fear of miscarriage
early on in the pregnancy. But are there things you can do during your pregnancy to help prevent such a horrific tragedy?
Until now, the study of stillbirths has largely been limited to keeping track of deaths and speculating on cause of death, but a recent report by the Stillbirth Collaborative Research Network, known as SCRN, reveals that they have begun to perform systematic medical evaluations on stillbirths to determine the probable or possible cause of death in a great majority of them.
The report, which was very recently published in the online Journal of the American Medical Association
(JAMA), suggests that there is no one possible cause of death that is more likely to happen than another; in fact, there are different causes amongst various racial and ethnic groups. Through their studies, the SCRN hopes to develop a reliable way to monitor pregnancies and ultimately prevent stillbirths.
Obstetric conditions were among the most common group of causes for stillbirth. These conditions include things like placental abruption
, which is the separation of the placenta (the organ that nourishes the fetus) from its attachment to the uterus before the baby is delivered; and cervical insufficiency
, which is when the cervix begins to open prematurely and becomes a serious medical complication.
Other forms of obstetric disorders
are preterm labor, and any abnormalities of the placenta. Other common causes of stillbirth center around genetic disorders or structural abnormalities of the fetus like any umbilical cord abnormalities and fluctuating blood pressure
Interestingly, the report found that African-American women are more than twice as likely to be affected by stillbirth compared to Caucasian women, though no specific cause was apparent. The United States has one of the highest rates of stillbirth among most of the other developed countries, with one in every 160 pregnancies resulting in stillbirth. This translates to roughly 26,000 stillbirths each year.
Even though there was a steady decline in the frequency of stillbirth from 1990 to 2003, since 2003 the frequency has leveled out and has remained largely unchanged, even today. To conduct the study, the researchers performed postmortem examinations of the stillborn baby which included an autopsy, a placental evaluation by a specialized perinatal pathologist, chromosome testing, laboratory studies and an interview with the mother.
Through this intense research, the team was able to determine the most probable cause of death in 76 percent of the stillbirths. The SCRN hopes that perhaps all of this exhaustive research will eventually lead to a reliable way of monitoring pregnancies, and gathering important information from stillbirths in an effort to further reduce the number of deaths each year.