Stillbirth and the potential factors

While stillbirths and miscarriages are both types of pregnancy loss, a stillbirth is a type of fetal death that occurs before or during delivery. Stillbirths in North Carolina are defined as the loss of a baby after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The cause of stillbirths are often unknown, but there are a number of factors that can increase the risk of a stillbirth.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists accessible information regarding stillbirths. The facts cover specifications of the stages of stillbirth, which include early stillbirths occurring between 20 and 27 weeks of pregnancy, late stillbirths, which occur between 28 and 36 weeks and term stillbirths, which occur at 37 weeks or later in pregnancy. CDC also states that roughly 24,000 babies are stillborn each year, and that research and medicinal improvements have helped reduce that number significantly.While the cause of stillbirths are still largely undetermined, the factors that can increase the likelihood of a stillbirth include:

  • Drug or alcohol use during pregnancy
  • Genetic problems
  • Problems with the placenta or umbelical cord
  • Having high blood pressure or diabetes
  • Being 35 years of age and older
  • Infections        

The U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health shares conducted research on stillbirths and potential causes related to infection. According to research, an infection that is left untreated can lead to stillbirths by several mechanisms, including direct fetal injection, placental damage, and severe maternal illness. A number of bacteria and viruses have also been associated with stillbirths. In the U.S., maternal or fetal infections have resulted in up to 24 percent of all stillbirths. Although the direct cause for a stillbirth is largely unexplained, knowing the factors that increase the risk of stillbirth can help decrease the likelihood of this devastating occurrence.       

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