A baby born after 24 weeks of pregnancy but showing no signs of life is defined as stillborn. The baby may have died in the womb or during labour and delivery. Sadly, it is still not known what causes most cases of stillbirth. Just under 10 per cent of stillbirths are related to problems during labour and delivery. In another 12 per cent of cases, the baby has developed abnormally and this has caused its death. In around 70 per cent of cases, the baby has died before labour but there is no clear reason why. These figures are from the Confidential Enquiry into Stillbirth and Infant Death in the UK, a national enquiry looking at how to reduce baby deaths by making recommendations to improve medical practice.
When a cause can be identified, it is often traced to defects in the baby, especially chromosomal, or lack of oxygen, sometimes caused by the position of the umbilical cord. Smoking, cocaine use, and high blood pressure may all be risk factors.
Women are less likely to have a stillbirth if they eat well, get plenty of rest, get early prenatal care, and avoid cocaine and all recreational drugs during pregnancy.