Losing a child at any age is devastating and traumatic. However, it can be particularly distressing and shocking when you lose a child during your pregnancy or shortly after birth. Often the terminology used, or the information provided, can be difficult to understand and comprehend in what are extremely difficult times.
Much of the terms used depend on the medical and legal definition and can often feel clinical, cold, or inconsiderate. However, here we will try and set out some information that may provide some guidance and insight.
What is it? A definition
The definition of a stillbirth death refers to a baby who dies in utero (in the mother’s womb) after 24 weeks gestation. Any death that occurs before this time is commonly referred to as a miscarriage, spontaneous abortion or pregnancy loss, amongst other things.
Causes – common examples
Sadly, there is not always a clear cause or explanation for a stillbirth. However, the common factors or causes to stillbirth cases include:
- infections – such as Hepatitis B, Group Strep B
- a prolonged pregnancy over 42 weeks
- pregnancies involving twins or multiple pregnancies
- complications associated with maternal conditions – such as high blood pressure and preeclampsia, lupus
- premature labour and premature rupture of the membranes (PROM)
- placental abruption or internal bleeding leading to oxygen deprivation
- problems with the placenta and umbilical cord
It is important to seek guidance and medical advice if you feel any abnormal symptoms or changes in your pregnancy. Every pregnancy is unique and if you feel any changes relating to your health, the fetal movements, growth, bleeding, sudden or unexpected pain or weight loss/gain you should seek advice urgently. Monitoring, examinations and scans are integral to any treatment as is a clear conversation with the mother as to what symptoms are normal and what changes have occurred. On most occasions, blood tests, scans or fetal heart rate monitoring can help prevent the development of serious conditions. If serious conditions have been diagnosed arrangements can be made for you to stay in hospital for appropriate and critical care.
Any factors that make the pregnancy high risk should be considered carefully by your treating clinicians from the outset. If you are deemed high risk you should be under consultant led care and have regular appointments and review.