MSD Manual

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Quick Facts



The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Jun 2021
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What is a stillbirth?

What causes a stillbirth?

Not all stillbirths are caused by the same problem. Doctors do tests to figure out the cause of a stillbirth. Often, they don’t find any cause. Sometimes they find a problem with the placenta (the organ that feeds your unborn baby), your baby, or your body.

Problems with the placenta

Problems with your baby

  • Abnormal genes or chromosomes

  • A birth defect

  • An infection

Problems with your body

What are the symptoms of a stillbirth?

Often, after your baby dies, you go into labor. During labor, your doctor will see that the baby has died.

Sometimes the baby dies but you don't go into labor. You may have no symptoms for a while. Other times there are obvious symptoms:

  • Not feeling the baby move or kick

  • Bleeding from your vagina

  • Cramps

How can doctors tell if I have a stillbirth?

Call your doctor right away if you have symptoms of a stillbirth. The doctor will do tests to check your baby's health, such as an ultrasound Ultrasonography Ultrasonography is a safe imaging test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the insides of your body. Ultrasonography doesn't use radiation (x-rays). Ultrasonography is also called... read more Ultrasonography (moving pictures of the inside of your uterus).

What do doctors do if I have a stillbirth?

If you've delivered the baby and the placenta, you won't need any treatment.

If the baby or the placenta are still in your body, they need to come out. Your doctor might:

  • Use a medicine that can start labor

  • Remove the baby and the placenta using surgical instruments put into your uterus (womb) through your vagina (birth canal)

If doctors need to do a surgical procedure, they will give you anesthesia (medicine to put you to sleep).

It's normal to feel grief, anger, and guilt after a stillbirth.

  • Consider talking with another person if you feel sad and are grieving the loss of your baby

  • Remind yourself that it’s very unlikely you did something to cause your stillbirth

  • If you’re worried about having another stillbirth, talk to a doctor who can discuss possible tests if needed

  • Remember that many women who have a stillbirth get pregnant again and give birth to healthy babies

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Test your knowledge
Separation Anxiety and Stranger Anxiety
An important part of normal development is an infant’s growing attachment to its parents. As this bond strengthens, the infant may express fear or anxiety when the parents leave. This “separation anxiety” typically begins at around 8 months of age and resolves at around 24 months of age. Which of the following is the normal and expected infant behavior in reaction to a parent leaving the room during the time period of separation anxiety?
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
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Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID