A stillbirth is the death or loss of a baby before or during delivery. Both miscarriage and stillbirth describe pregnancy loss, but they differ according to when the loss occurs. In the United States, a miscarriage is usually defined as loss of a baby before the 20th week of pregnancy, and a stillbirth is loss of a baby at or after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
An early stillbirth is a fetal death occurring between 20 and 27 completed weeks of pregnancy. A late stillbirth occurs between 28 and 36 completed pregnancy weeks. A term stillbirth occurs between 37 or more completed pregnancy weeks.
Stillbirth affects about 1 in 160 births, and each year about 24,000 babies are stillborn in the United States, which is about the same number of babies that die during the first year of life and is more than 10 times as many deaths as the number that occur from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Advances in medical technology over the last 30 years have dramatically reduced the number of late and term stillbirth. Yet the rate of early stillbirth has remained about the same over time.
Stillbirth with an unknown cause is called “unexplained stillbirth.” Having an unexplained stillbirth is more likely to occur the further along a woman is in her pregnancy. Having an autopsy on the baby and other laboratory tests is important in trying to understand why the baby died before birth.
Stillbirth occurs more commonly among certain groups of people including women who are of black race; are 35 years of age or older; are of low socioeconomic status; smoke cigarettes during pregnancy; have certain medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity; have multiple pregnancies such as triplets or quadruplets; and, women who have had a previous pregnancy loss. Differences in factors such as maternal health, income, access to quality health care, stress, social and emotional support resources and cultural factors may explain how these factors are related to having a stillbirth.
In 2014, a total of 15,840 fetal deaths of 20 weeks gestation or more occurred; the fetal mortality rate was 611.7 fetal deaths per 100,000 live births and fetal deaths. Five selected causes of fetal death accounted for 90.4% of fetal deaths. By order of frequency, these were unspecified cause; fetus affected by complications of placenta, cord and membranes (placenta, cord, and membrane complications); fetus affected by maternal complications of pregnancy (maternal complications); congenital malformations, common when examining fetal causes with respect to various deformations and chromosomal abnormalities (congenital malformations); and, fetus affected by maternal conditions that may be unrelated to present pregnancy.
To determine if a stillbirth was caused by medical malpractice, it is important that a medical malpractice lawyer be retained as soon as possible so that a proper investigation into the stillborn death can begin.
If you or a family member suffered the heartache of a stillbirth, you or your family member should promptly find a medical malpractice lawyer near you who may investigate the cause of the stillbirth for you and represent you or your loved one in a stillbirth medical malpractice claim, if appropriate.
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