Stillbirth is not an easy issue to address for mothers or mothers-to-be. It's truly devastating and one of the top fears for parents-to-be. If stillbirth has been an issue for you in the past or it affects someone you know, it's common wonder what are the causes of stillbirth and why it happens to some mothers but not others.
Every woman affected by stillbirth, or who is at higher risk for it, has a different reason or underlying issue that may contribute to it. However, some more comforting news for those mothers who have dealt with stillbirth in the past, is that most women who get pregnant again after a stillbirth can have a healthy baby and pregnancy, according to March of Dimes.
For those left wondering what contributes to a still birth, however, it's not always black and white. Unfortunately, the answer isn't simple in many cases, and sometimes doctors just don't know. According to Very Well, roughly 25 percent of stillbirths don't have a a known cause. In the majority of cases, however, there are some common issues or underlying problems that can directly contribute to or cause a stillbirth. Here are 11 of the most common causes of stillbirth in pregnant women today.
Placenta abruption is caused when the placenta separates from the uterine walls during pregnancy, according to Very Well. This occurs for several reasons including defects in a mother's uterus and abdomen trauma, and the most prominent symptoms include abdominal discomfort or contractions, preeclampsia, and vaginal bleeding.
2Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR)
IUGR is a condition meaning the baby is much smaller than expected for how far along a mother is in her pregnancy term. Very Well shared that severe cases of IUGR can cause stillbirth or increase risk substantially.
3Chromosomal Issues & Birth Defects
According to March of Dimes, 14 in 100 stillborn babies have one or more birth defects and, just as chromosomal issues cause the majority of miscarriages, they also contribute to stillbirths. The difference between the two is that chromosomal abnormalities can be determined at conception while birth defects, are in large part, caused by environmental influences.
4Twin-To-Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS)
There is not enough awareness around TTTS, which affects around 15 percent of identical twins and higher order multiples, according to American Pregnancy Association (APA). Mothers pregnant with identical twins should always get ultrasounds in order to catch it early, because it can be managed. However, if it is not caught or able to manage, TTTS can cause stillbirth in one or both babies.
Some bacterial or viral infections can increase risk of stillbirth. According to March of Dimes, some of the infections that cause stillbirth include cytomegalovirus, fifth disease, urinary tract infections, obtaining genital herpes or syphilis while pregnant, listeriosis (a type of food poisoning), and toxoplasmosis.
Although the cause for preterm labor isn't always possible to pinpoint, it can still cause issues for mom and baby. Preterm labor can lead to premature birth and increase risk for stillbirth according to Healthline. Some factors that may lead to preterm labor include polyhydramnios, cervical issues, genetic conditions, lack of prenatal care, and more.
Multiple gestation forces the uterus to stretch while holding two or more babies and, according to Patient, can cause stillbirth. The comparison Patient shared in relation to multiple gestation is that, "for singleton pregnancy, the stillbirth rate is around 5 per 1,000 births, for twins the overall rate is around 12.3 per 1,000 and for triplets 31.1 per 1,000." It also means those with multiple gestation have a higher risk for other issues that can lead to stillbirth as well.
8Umbilical Cord Issues
According to Web MD, some problems with the umbilical cord can cause stillbirth. Issues include a prolapsed umbilical cord, the cord wrapping around a limb or the baby's neck while in the womb, or the cord exiting the vagina before the baby. which can block oxygen supply before a baby can breathe on his own.
Accidents that result in abdominal or general trauma can also lead to stillbirth, according to Very Well. Some of the more common trauma-related stillbirths include car accidents or major falls. A study done by National Institutes of Health (NIH) found another type of trauma that can up the risk of stillbirth is stress, especially for women who are dealing with significant emotional, personal, or financial stresses.
10Other Medical Issues
Though rare, there are some other potential medical problems that can cause stillbirth or increase risk, according to Very Well. Some examples include pregnancies past 42 weeks, clotting disorders, certain autoimmune diseases, obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure, or having previous miscarriages or stillbirths.
Tobacco, drug, and alcohol use during pregnancy can double the risk of stillbirth, according to NIH. The things you ingest enter into your baby’s bloodstream through the placenta, so UPMC suggested that when you eat and drink, so does your baby.