Losing a baby while still in the womb is one of the most traumatic experiences for any woman. The shock and grief upon learning about the baby being dead inside the womb is definitely a severe blow. Trying to tune the mind and moving on to a next hopeful conception is even harder.
While most women cope with the distress and recover to try again, few tend to give up the idea of pregnancy forever.
There are number of reasons for stillbirth or loss of baby inside the womb. It is important to understand what causes stillbirth to happen and what can be done to ensure a healthy pregnancy later.
Difference Between Still Birth And Miscarriage:
Most women tend to mix up the two terms, sometimes assuming that both still birth and miscarriage are one and the same.
- When the baby inside the uterus dies after 20 weeks of pregnancy, it is termed as still birth.
- Miscarriage can happen any time before the 20th week.
[ Read: Folic Acid During Pregnancy ]
Causes Of Stillbirth:
There could be many underlying causes and risk factors of a stillbirth. Some of the main causes are listed below:
- Family history of still births
- Previous history of still birth
- Poor fetal growth pattern inside uterus
- Sudden abruption of placenta from uterus, cutting off the oxygen supply to the baby
- Infections transmitted from mother to baby such as listeriosis, syphilis, fifth disease, etc.
- Knot in the umbilical cord cutting off oxygen to the growing baby
- Difficult delivery or a trauma during pregnancy
- Birth defects in the form of chromosomal defects, structural defects, etc.
- Intrauterine growth retardation in earlier pregnancies
- Preterm labor and birth
- Pregnancy induced hypertension
- Preeclampsia during current or previous pregnancies
- Chronic medical conditions of the mother, such as lupus, high blood pressure, thyroid disease, thrombophilia, diabetes, kidney failure, etc.
- Obese mothers
- Mothers with a history of smoking, alcohol and drug abuse
- Carrying twins or multiples
- Pregnancy due to IVF (In Vitro Fertilization)
- Late pregnancy (in mothers aged 40 and above)
[ Read: Syphilis During Pregnancy ]
Diagnosis Of Stillbirth:
Stillbirth in a pregnancy is usually diagnosed after completing week 20.
- The doctor will check for the baby’s heart beat using a Doppler.
- If there is no sign of pulse, an ultrasound is further done exhaustively to check the status of the same.
- Sonogram usually confirms if the baby’s heartbeat has stopped.
- The gynecologist will also perform other tests such as amniocentesis to understand any chromosomal defects that would have caused the still birth.
[ Read: How tp use Doppler Fetal Monitor At Home ]
Delivery Of A StillBorn:
As painful as that sounds, a stillborn baby is delivered immediately after the confirmation that it has died. The delivery process is completed in either of the below ways:
Labor is induced to deliver the still born out like in the normal delivery using local or general anesthesia. In case the pregnant woman’s cervix is not dilated enough, IV fluids are given to infuse oxytocin hormone that triggers contractions and labor. This causes a vaginal delivery, pushing out the stillborn baby.
[ Read: How To Induce Labour ]
2. Dilation And Evacuation (D&E):
A D&E is performed more because of a personal choice to get detached from the feeling of being pregnant. Most pregnant women request their doctors to perform dilation and evacuation, an invasive procedure that involves fast expulsion of the still born. This is done quickly and efficiently and has no side effects or complications.
Induction is a process for those women who want to bid goodbye to their not born young. The pregnant women will be handed over their still born for a last look and grieving. An autopsy of the stillborn may be done by the doctors to understand as to what caused the still birth.
Tests After Still Birth:
Once the still born baby is delivered out of the womb, the doctors and the medical team may take consent from the mother to retain the leftover placental membranes and umbilical cord. These membranes are further examined and tested to understand the root causes for the still birth.
Women who are religious and want to perform the last rites to their still born can refuse to consent for autopsy.
6 Preventive Measures To Avoid A Stillbirth:
Your gynecologist will do a careful observation at every phase of your pregnancy. Some of the simple measures listed below will help in preventing stillbirth:
- Consuming prescribed amount of folic acid everyday (400 milligrams or as prescribed).
- Maintaining healthy lifestyle and diet regimes.
- Bidding goodbye to smoking, alcohol and drugs (in case you had an addiction before).
- Maintaining healthy weight (in case you are way over your BMI and are obese).
- Constant monitoring of baby’s heartbeat during ultrasound tests.
- Consuming prenatal fetal medicine prescribed in case of still birth due to chromosomal abnormalities.
[ Read: Smoking During Pregnancy ]
Red Alerts To Watch Out For:
Staying vigilant about your baby’s movements and signs are very important. Give a call to your doctor right away in case you identify any or all of the below red flags:
- Sudden vaginal bleeding in the second and third trimester
- Back pain
- Tenderness in the uterine region
- Cramps that come and go as hard contractions way before due date
- Reduced baby movements inside the womb
- Reduced kick counts from your baby after 28 weeks
- Stillness inside the womb (absolutely no movements)
[ Read: Back Pain During Pregnancy ]
Life After Stillbirth:
It is true that stillbirth is very difficult and hard to cope with. You may lose your self-esteem, will power and the hope to conceive again.
It is important to try and move on from the dark phase as soon as you can. While some recover faster from the trauma, there are women who completely give up on the idea of planning another pregnancy. Understand that it is not fair to punish yourself for something you are not guilty of.
Childbirth is as natural as nature. Take time and plan what you want to do in future. While there are strong chances that you may be at the risk of stillbirth the next time you get pregnant, there are even stronger chances of you delivering safely as well.
Perseverance along with your doctor’s advice after identifying the root causes will help you win over the odds. Talk to your doctor with an open conversation surrounding the concept of stillbirth and the viable measures.
Do share your views on the same with other readers in the comment section below.
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