Stillbirth is the condition in which a baby dies in the uterus at twenty weeks of pregnancy or later. On the other hand, if the pregnancy is lost before twenty weeks, it is called a miscarriage. Statistics show that about 1 in 160 pregnancies end in a stillbirth in the United States. Most of the instances of stillbirth occur before the start of labor; however, a smaller number happens during labor too.

Diagnosing Stillbirth

A pregnant woman might notice that her baby is not moving in her womb or may find out that the baby has died in the regular prenatal visit. The healthcare provider in a free womens clinic tries to listen to the heartbeat of the baby using a Doppler device, using the ultrasonic diagnosis. If it is found that there is no heartbeat, an ultrasound scan will be performed to confirm that the heart of the baby has stopped and that the baby has died in the womb.

The ultrasound scan might also offer other information to find out the cause of death of the baby. Further, the healthcare provider might suggest a blood test to the mother to find out the potential causes of death of the baby. An amniocentesis might also be advised to check for chromosomal issues and abnormalities that might have contributed to or caused the death of the baby.

Delivery of Stillborn Child

Some women might have to deliver the baby immediately due to medical reasons, but others might be allowed to wait to prepare for the delivery or give labor time to begin naturally. In this time, the healthcare provider will monitor the mother’s health closely and check if they are developing any blood clotting issues or some infections.

Most of the women will choose to induce labor after they learn about the death of their baby. However, it can be induced either via labor and delivery or through a procedure called dilation and evacuation (D&E) that is performed under general or local anesthesia.

If the cervix of the woman has not started to dilate for the labor, the healthcare provider might use a medicine to induce the process. The mother will get an intravenous infusion of Oxytocin hormone to start the contractions of the uterus. Most women will be able to deliver vaginally.

Dilation and evacuation (D&E) is mostly used when the woman is still in her second trimester. She will be given intravenous sedation and local anesthesia or will be put under general anesthesia. The doctor will then dilate the cervix to remove the body of the baby.

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    About the Author

    Dr. Ghassan M. Al-Jazayrly, MD

    A graduate of University of Aleppo Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Al-Jazayrly or, as he is colloquially known: Dr. AJ, is an oncologist and hematologist of a Complete Care Community Health Center (CCCHC) with more than 36 years of experience. In recent years, he’s been involved with a non profit organization known as Every Woman Counts (EWC) which provides free breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services to California’s underserved populations in order to eliminate health disparities for low-income individuals.

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