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Medically reviewed by Last updated on Sep 3, 2023.

What is stillbirth?

A stillbirth is when a baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Most stillbirths happen before a woman goes into labor. Some stillbirths may happen during labor and birth.

What causes a stillbirth?

The cause of a stillbirth may not be known. The following are possible causes of a stillbirth:

  • Infections in the mother, baby, or placenta such as cytomegalovirus, toxoplasmosis, or a sexually transmitted infection
  • Complications during pregnancy such as preeclampsia, preterm labor, or trauma
  • Problems with the baby such as birth defects, fetal growth restriction, or genetic conditions
  • Problems with the placenta such as blood clots, swelling, or separation of the placenta from the wall of the uterus
  • Problems with the umbilical cord such as a knot that prevents oxygen and blood flow to the baby
  • Problems during labor and delivery that prevent blood and oxygen from reaching the baby

How will my baby be delivered?

Talk to your healthcare provider about the ways your baby can be delivered. Your baby may be delivered by any of the following ways:

  • Natural labor may happen within 2 weeks after a stillbirth.
  • Induction of labor means your healthcare provider will give you medicine to make labor and delivery happen. Your labor may need to be induced if you do not go into natural labor within 2 weeks of a stillbirth.
  • Dilation and evacuation is surgery to deliver your baby. Your healthcare provider will dilate (open) your cervix and deliver your baby through your vagina.
  • A cesarean , or C-section, is surgery to deliver your baby. Your healthcare provider will make an incision in your lower abdomen. Your baby will be delivered through the incision.

What can I expect after delivery?

It is your choice to see your baby after delivery. Healthcare providers can give you and those whom you are close with time alone with your baby. During this time you can hold your baby, take pictures, name your baby, or have a religious ceremony. Ask your healthcare provider if you can have something to remember your baby. This can include a handprint, a footprint, or baby blanket.

What tests can be done after a stillbirth?

Tests can be done to help find the cause of a stillbirth. Information from these tests may also help you plan for a future pregnancy. It is your choice whether or not to have you or your baby tested. Your healthcare provider may also examine the umbilical cord or placenta for problems.

Where can I get information to help me cope with the loss of my baby?

The loss of a baby can be very difficult for both you and your partner. Both you and the people whom are close to you, need time to grieve. You may feel shock, anger, emptiness, helplessness or loneliness. You may be at an increased risk for postpartum depression. Join a support group or find a counselor who can help you cope with the loss of your baby. Ask your healthcare provider for more information on support groups or where you can find help.

  • March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation
    1275 Mamaroneck Avenue
    White Plains , NY 10605
    Web Address:
  • First Candle
    1314 Bedford Avenue, Suite 210
    Baltimore , MD 21208
    Phone: 1- 800 - 221-7437
    Web Address:

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have heavy vaginal bleeding that soaks 1 pad or more in an hour.
  • You have severe abdominal pain even after you take pain medicine.
  • You have thoughts of harming yourself.

When should I contact my obstetrician?

  • You have a fever.
  • You have nausea or are vomiting.
  • You have foul-smelling fluid coming from your vagina.
  • You or your partner feel extremely sad, hopeless, or cannot cope with what has happened.
  • You have trouble sleeping or eating.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© Copyright Merative 2023 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

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