If a woman loses a pregnancy after she's past her 20th week, it's called a stillbirth. Stillbirths are due to natural causes. They can happen before delivery or during delivery. Causes include:
- Problems with the placenta, the organ that transports oxygen and nutrients to the fetus
- Genetic problems with the fetus
- Fetal infections
- Other physical problems in the fetus
In at least half of all cases, it is not possible to tell why the baby died.
If stillbirth happens before delivery, your health care provider may induce labor or perform a Cesarean section to deliver the fetus. In some cases, you can wait until you go into labor yourself. This usually happens within two weeks of stillbirth.
Counseling may help you cope with your grief. Later, if you do decide to try again, work closely with your health care provider to lower the risks. Many women who have a stillbirth go on to have healthy babies.
NIH: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
- Dealing with Grief after the Death of Your Baby (March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation)
- FAQs about Pregnancy Loss (Before 20 Weeks of Pregnancy) (Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development) Also in Spanish
- Recurrent Pregnancy Loss (RPL) (American Society for Reproductive Medicine) Also in Spanish
Statistics and Research
- Facts about Stillbirth (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: Risk of adverse fetal outcomes following nonobstetric surgery during gestation: a...
- Article: Socioeconomic inequalities in stillbirth and neonatal mortality rates: evidence on Particularly...
- Article: Evaluation of neural tube defects from 2014 to 2019 in Turkey.
- Stillbirth -- see more articles
Find an Expert
- Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Also in Spanish
- Find an Ob-Gyn (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists)
- March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation Also in Spanish