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by Stahl RJ

(Fetal Death; Intrauterine Fetal Death; IUFD)



Stillbirth may be caused by:
In many cases, the cause is unknown.

Risk Factors

Many factors may increase the risk of stillbirth. Risk factors in the mother include:


An ultrasound exam may be done. This will allow the doctor to examine the fetus and confirm that the heartbeat has stopped. During this exam, the doctor may be able to find out what caused the stillbirth.
Abdominal Ultrasound
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After the woman has given birth, the doctor will further examine the fetus, placenta, and umbilical cord. An autopsy may be done if the parents request it. Tests can be ordered to find out if an infection or genetic disorder caused the baby’s death.


While there are no definite ways to prevent stillbirth, there are steps that couples can take to have a healthy pregnancy:

Before Becoming Pregnant

During Pregnancy

  • Go to all prenatal care visits.
  • If a woman has had a prior stillborn baby, the doctor may do additional testing during the current pregnancy. Tests will be done to track how the fetus is developing. Some doctors may recommend that women monitor kick counts closely during their pregnancy.
  • Smoking, drinking, and using drugs should be avoided during pregnancy.
  • Women should call their doctor right away if they notice decreased fetal movement or have vaginal bleeding.


American Academy of Pediatrics

American Pregnancy Association



Health Canada

Women’s Health Matters



The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. ACOG practice bulletin No. 102: Management of stillbirth. Obstet Gynecol. 2009 Mar;113(3):748-61.

Fetal death. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated February 7, 2013. Accessed March 12, 2013.

Kent DR, West J. Obstetrics and gynecology: a modern approach to the management of intrauterine fetal death. West J Med. 1977;126(4):298-299.

Ogunyemi D. Stillbirths. Cedars-Sinai website. Available at: Accessed March 12, 2013.

Stillbirth. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia website. Available at: Accessed March 12, 2013.

Stillbirth: trying to understand. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: Updated January 2013. Accessed March 12, 2013.

12/30/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance Stillbirth Collaborative Research Network Writing Group. Association between stillbirth and risk factors known at pregnancy confirmation. JAMA. 2011;306(22):2469-2479.

12/30/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance Stillbirth Collaborative Research Network Writing Group. Causes of death among stillbirths. JAMA. 2011;306(22):2459-2468.

8/26/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance Gaskins AJ, Rich-Edwards JW, et al. Maternal prepregnancy folate intake and risk of spontaneous abortion and stillbirth. Obstet Gynecol. 2014;124(1):23-31.


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