A number of recent high profile pregnancies that have ended in tragic late miscarriage or stillbirth have helped to shed light on an issue grieving parents often feel is swept under the carpet.
Take That star Gary Barlow and his wife Dawn have revealed that their fourth child, Poppy, was still born this week at around seven months of pregnancy. Awareness of stillbirth has been growing over the past two years, as famous names Lily Allen, Kelly Brook and Amanda Holden all tragically lost babies in their second or third trimesters.
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A stillbirth is when a baby is born with no sign of life after week 24 of pregnancy. Before this point, the loss of a baby is known as a miscarriage. The vast majority of miscarriages happen in the first trimester – before 12 weeks, and are usually unavoidable due to genetic problems with the developing foetus. In most cases, the body realises early on that the baby will not be able to grow and develop normally and as a result, miscarriage occurs. Miscarriages after 12 weeks are less common and between 14 and 24 weeks, they’re known as ‘late miscarriages’.
What is stillbirth?
Losing a baby later in pregnancy is made even more devastating as the pregnant woman will need to go through birth. Many parents choose to have a funeral or memorial service to help them come to terms with this experience and loss. Often, as in the Barlows’ case, the unborn baby has been named and considered part of the family.
Is stillbirth preventable?In 2009, the UK’s stillbirth rate was at 3.5 per 1,000 births. Some causes include congenital conditions, problems with the placenta or infections. But 30 per cent of still births are inexplicable. You can reduce your risk factors in pregnancy by not smoking or drinking while pregnant, avoiding undercooked food and unpasturised cheeses. Older and overweight mums-to-be are statistically at a higher risk of losing their baby but this is often countered by more regular check-ups and scans by their medical team.
The UK is ranked 33rd in the word for stillbirth rate, and this must be improved. But it’s important to remember that stillbirth is still very rare and even those in higher risk groups are far more likely to have a problem-free pregnancy. If you’re at all concerned, speak to your doctor or midwife about taking extra precautions and any extra monitoring that may be available.
Tommy’s baby charity raises money for research into miscarriage and stillbirth.