What Are The Odds Of Stillbirth And How Can You Reduce The Risk?

A stillbirth is a traumatic and devastating event, occurring when a baby dies either during pregnancy (at 20 weeks or greater) or during delivery (via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). According to the CDC, approximately 21,000 babies in the United States are stillborn. Approximately one in 175 births will be impacted by stillbirth, although advances in medical and prenatal care over the years has managed to reduce the number of late and term stillbirths.

According to Cleveland Clinic, stillbirths are difficult to predict, and can affect mothers of any age or background. Additionally, the causes are not always known, with one out of every three stillbirths going unexplained. However, the most common causes include preeclampsia, problems with the placenta or umbilical cord, blood clotting disorders, or pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease.

In addition to these causes, the mother's lifestyle choices can also be a factor in stillbirth, Cleveland Clinic points out. Those who use recreational drugs and smoke have a higher risk of having a stillborn baby versus those who abstain. The CDC also notes that women who are obese, over 35, and who have had a previous pregnancy loss may also be at risk.

There are a few things you can do to keep your baby safe

Because the causes of stillbirth aren't fully understood, directly preventing them from occurring can be a challenge (via Cleveland Clinic). That said, there are a few steps that you can take to help reduce your chances. For starters, you should not indulge in any alcohol, smoking, or recreational drug use while pregnant. You should also maintain a healthy weight before getting pregnant and maintain a healthy diet during your pregnancy. Where diet is concerned, it is advisable to avoid certain foods such as some kinds of fish and cheeses, as well as to ensure that all meat and poultry you consume is cooked thoroughly.

Another thing you can do, according to Kaiser Permanente, is track your fetus's movements. According to a 2019 study conducted in Norway by Oslo Metropolitan University, monitoring fetal movements daily led to an overall reduction in stillbirths. When you reach the third trimester, you can and should start keeping tabs on when your baby moves, also called kick counting. When your baby has moved 10 times, make a note of how long it took. If, after two hours, your baby has not moved 10 times, or if there is a decrease of normal activity, you should call your doctor immediately.

Even the way you sleep can make a difference

You can even take care of yourself when you're not active, as the way you sleep could also have an effect on your pregnancy (via the National Health Service). A 2019 study published in eClinicalMedicine showed that women who sleep on their side during their last three months of pregnancy can reduce their risk of stillbirth by more than half. The research showed that sleeping on the side improves blood flow to the womb.

During your pregnancy, it's also important for you to keep regular appointments with your doctor or midwife (via The Royal Women's Hospital). Consistent checkups can help you monitor your baby's growth and identify any problems quickly. You should also discuss the timing of your birth with your healthcare professional. Depending on how your pregnancy is progressing, your doctor or midwife will help you decide when the best time to have your baby may be.