Stillbirth is an extremely sensitive subject and can be devastating for couples who experience it. The medical definition of stillbirth is when a baby is born after 24 weeks with no sign of life.
However, if the baby is born with no sign of life before the 24-week-period, then it is termed a miscarriage. Stillbirth in most cases is when the fetus dies in a mother’s womb before it is delivered.
Dr Jean Nyirinkwaya, the CEO of Hospital La Croix Du Sud (‘Southern Cross’ Hospital), stillbirths are unpredictable and its causes vary among expectant mothers.
“There are cases when a stillbirth happens before the expectant mother goes to the health center while others happen after the mother has reached the hospital,” Nyirinkwaya said.
With his 28-years of experience as an Obstetrician and Gynecologist, Dr Nyirinkwaya further said that it’s important to always monitor a pregnant mother if she has suffered a stillbirth before.
“Women with a history of stillbirth are expected to be closely monitored since there are several assumptions that lead to the situation. For instance, an expectant mother with high blood pressure if not closely observed could experience a stillbirth,” he explains.
About 50 percent of stillbirth cases have an unknown cause. There are some indications to the possible causes of stillbirths, such as infection, accidents with the umbilical cord and genetic factors.
Other known causes of stillbirths include problems with the placenta and eclampsia, which causes seizures during pregnancy. There may also be severe irregularities or abnormalities in the baby that contribute to the stillbirth.
Stillbirths may also occur when the blood groups of the mother and the baby do not match. This is called the Rhesus Factor disease, and women who have this condition must be medically treated to prevent stillbirths.
“Anti-phospholipid Syndrome that causes the baby to become starved of essential oxygen and nutrients in the womb could lead to stillbirth.
This happens when the placenta fails to provide nutrients due to blood clotting. Treatment for this condition includes medications that thin the blood,” Dr Nyirinkwaya adds.
Problems with the placenta may lead to stillbirths. The placenta may become detached at an early stage during pregnancy, causing a lack of blood flow to the fetus.
Intra-uterine growth retardation (IUGR) is the medical term for a baby failing to achieve full growth in the womb. This condition accounts for at least five percent of all stillbirths.
The exact figures of stillbirths are unknown. But when it happens the first time, the next time a mother conceives, she is observed with the use of a monitor which checks the heart beat and the pressure of the mother and the fetus.