(Fetal Death; Intrauterine Fetal Death; IUFD)
by Rebecca J. Stahl, MA
Stillbirth is the death of a fetus after 20 weeks of pregnancy. It often happens before labor begins.
Stillbirth may be caused by:
In many cases, the cause is unknown.
Stillbirth is more common for women aged 35 years and older. Other factors that may increase the chance of stillbirth include:
An ultrasound exam may be done. The doctor will examine the baby and look for a heartbeat.
The cause may be seen with the ultrasound. After birth, other tests may be done to understand the cause.
The fetus will need to be delivered. A vaginal birth is the safest option for most. Some may need a cesarean section. The doctor will talk about the options.
Labor may be started with medicine. It may be given through the vagina, as pills, or by IV. Treatment may not be needed if there are other living fetuses.
The birth does not have to happen right away. Problems for the mother may occur if the birth is put off for several weeks.
Not all stillbirths can be prevented. Steps that can increase your chance of a healthy pregnancy include:
Before Becoming Pregnant
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
American Pregnancy Association
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. Reaffirmed 2016.
Stillbirth. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115491/Stillbirth . Updated February 20, 2018. Accessed September 25, 2018.
Stillbirth: trying to understand. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated June 8, 2017. Accessed September 25, 2018.
12/30/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115491/Stillbirth : 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 Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115491/Stillbirth : Stillbirth Collaborative Research Network Writing Group. Causes of death among stillbirths. JAMA. 2011;306(22):2459-2468.
8/26/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115491/Stillbirth : 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.
7/15/2016 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance. http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115491/Stillbirth : Saccone G, Berghella V, Sarno L, et al. Celiac disease and obstetric complications: a systematic review and metaanalysis. 2016;214(2):225-234.
Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Monica Zangwill, MD, MPH
Last Updated: 9/25/2018
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at email@example.com. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.