Stillbirth: What really happened?
Stillbirth is one of the most devastating events a parent can experience. After months of anticipation and preparation, to lose the baby you’ve waited for can seem like a cruel twist of fate. But sometimes, stillbirth has little to do with fate: it’s the result of negligent medical care. If you have lost a child to stillbirth, people may have tried to comfort you by saying that sometimes these things just happen. It may be more comforting, to know why it happened.
A stillbirth occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy, as losses before that time are classified as miscarriages. Past 20 weeks, it is rare for babies to die suddenly, so there’s often a reason for the stillbirth. It may have been a maternal condition like high blood pressure, diabetes, or a bacterial infection like listeriosis. The mother might have used recreational drugs, smoked, or consumed alcohol while pregnant.
The heartbeat should be closely monitored, and the mother’s urine and blood pressure should be checked at every visit. Ultrasounds are also an important part of monitoring the baby’s growth and well-being.
When a family suffers a stillbirth, it’s important to ask the right questions. Immediately after the birth, it can be hard to focus on getting answers, but an autopsy can provide information to help avoid problems in future pregnancies. When you are up to it, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor to explain what he or she thinks happened. If you decide to switch doctors for any reason, obtain a copy of your medical record, so you can let your future doctor know what happened.