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Problems during pregnancy may lead to stillbirth

New Mexico families concerned about problems during pregnancy may wish to know about the risk of stillbirth. Nearly 33 percent of stillbirths remain unexplained. There are risk factors associated with this intrauterine death of a fetus after 20 weeks gestation. They include mothers over 35, smoking, drug or alcohol abuse and malnutrition. Stillbirths occur in about one out of every 160 pregnancies.

Common reasons for stillbirths include chromosomal abnormalities. Such genetic defects are responsible for about 15 to 20 percent of all stillbirths. Structural abnormalities that make survival difficult can also result in stillbirth. Smaller than normal-sized babies cause a high risk for asphyxia and brain injury.

The placenta grows in the uterus to supply the baby with oxygen and nutrients. However, it may separate from the wall of the uterus, depriving the baby of both. Placental abruption is often linked to stillbirth. This may result from high blood pressure related to pregnancy called preeclampsia. Placental abruption has a 50 percent higher chance of resulting in stillbirth.

Infections, particularly after 24 weeks, may result in intrauterine death if they go undiagnosed. Trauma to the mother's abdomen may also result in stillbirth. Other causes are umbilical cord issues and maternal diabetes.

There are signs that indicate potential problems might exist that could lead to stillbirth. Decreased movement by the baby or increases in blood pressure may be signs that fetal monitoring and ultrasound may be necessary. In addition, regulating blood pressure is important during pregnancy.

If a health care provider fails to be alert for problems that may lead to stillbirth, he or she may have failed in their duty to take steps to prevent it. An attorney may obtain expert opinion to determine if the provider was negligent. If so, a malpractice suit may be filed against the doctor or medical staff.

Source: American Pregnancy Association , "Stillbirth: Trying To Understand", November 26, 2014

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