According to World Health Organisation (WHO), stillbirth is when the baby is born with no signs of life at or after 28 weeks gestation.
It's not once or twice that we have heard of women who lost their babies when they were too close to delivery. Or even those who carried their pregnancies to term only to deliver an already dead baby.
Types of stillbirths
Stillbirths can either be antepartum or intrapartum. Antepartum or intra-uterine stillbirth is when the baby dies in the womb before the onset of labor, usually more than 12 hours prior to delivery. On the other hand, intrapartum or fresh stillbirths occur when the baby dies after the onset of labor, usually less than 12 hours prior to delivery - according to WHO, most stillbirths happen when the woman is in labor.
Research shows that most stillbirths can be prevented. This is because most antepartum stillbirths reflect the quality of antenatal care while intrapartum stillbirths reflect the quality of delivery care. This implies that if a pregnant woman is serious and attends all their antenatal clinics, they will reduce their risk of stillbirth. And if you get the best care during labor, chances of stillbirth will also be reduced.
Common causes of stillbirth
So, what really causes stillbirth? Well, where there are things that might be beyond your control as a pregnant woman, you also have an important role to play to prevent stillbirth. Some of the major causes of stillbirth include:
1. Post-term pregnancy
This is when a woman has not yet given birth after 42 weeks. This increases the chances of meconium (baby pooping in the womb), birth injuries and even stillbirth.
2. Congenital abnormalities
Sometimes the baby just has structural or genetic defects that lead to the death of the fetus.
3. Maternal infections during pregnancy
When the mother contracts an infection during pregnancy, some of them can affect the baby. Bacterial infections can move from the vagina to the womb hence affecting the baby. Some infections that can lead to stillbirth include; malaria, syphilis, HIV, chlamydia, herpes, among others.
4. Maternal disorders
Medical complications of the mother such as diabetes, obesity, and, hypertension have been found to be a common cause of stillbirth towards the end of the second trimester and at the beginning of the third trimester. As a pregnant woman, you will need to lead a healthy lifestyle to avoid these medical conditions that put the health of the fetus at risk.
5. Child birth complications
You might still have had a smooth pregnancy only for complications to arise during labor. Some common complications that may arise include; prolonged labor, wrong fetus position, and umbilical cord issues such as when it gets wrapped around the fetus hence restricting the flow of oxygen.
6. Fetal growth restriction
This is when the fetus is smaller than it should be depending on the gestational age. The delayed growth of the fetus could be to placental issues and it has several risks with stillbirth being one of them.
Sometimes the placenta separates from the womb (placental abruption) before the baby is born. Symptoms of placental abruption include;vaginal bleeding, abdominal pain, back pains, tender womb and contractions.
Signs and symptoms of stillbirth
Some common signs of stillbirth include; vaginal bleeding, stopping of fetal movements and kicks, no fetal heartbeat and movements seen by the ultrasound.
If you no longer feel your baby kick or the movements have decreased at considerable rates, seek help immediately to rule out the possibility of a stillbirth.