Deciphering Stillbirth: Common Causes and Tests
Again, having one of these conditions does not mean that you will have a stillborn baby or that, if you experience a stillbirth, the pregnancy loss was definitely caused by that condition. However, a pathologist and your obstetrician will work to determine whether the health problem precipitated the stillbirth.
Many different infections can cross from the mother to the unborn baby through the placenta. Some of these infections include Fifth Disease (a common infection in children, also called “slapped cheek” or parvovirus), listeriosis, rubella, toxoplasmosis (contracted by handling raw or undercooked meat, or contact with cat feces), and sexually transmitted diseases, including chlamydia, syphilis, and herpes.
Problems with the Placenta
Starting at the 12th week of pregnancy, the placenta transports the developing baby’s nutrients, antibodies, and oxygen. It also “returns waste products to the mother for disposal and produces hormones that help to maintain the pregnancy,” write Douglas and Dr. Sussman.
It is estimated that about 15 to 25 percent of stillbirths are caused by placental problems.
There are three main types of placental problems:
- Placental insufficiency/placental failure is when the placenta cannot provide what the baby needs to thrive. Sometimes the placenta does not form properly, grow sufficiently, or function well. There is little warning that there is something wrong until fetal demise is discovered. This problem often occurs after the twenty-eighth week of pregnancy, when the baby is growing rapidly and places increasing demands on the placenta.
- Placental abruption is when the placenta partially or completely separates from the wall of the uterus. This is caused by bleeding between the placenta and the uterine wall. Abruption occurs in one in 150 pregnancies.
- Placental previa is diagnosed when the placenta implants very low in the uterus, covering or partially covering the cervix. As the uterus stretches to accommodate the growing baby, bleeding occurs and, unless caught by the physician, causes fetal death.
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