A stillbirth is the birth of a fully formed baby who is not living. The death may have occurred
- weeks before labour;
- hours before labour or,
- during the actual labour.
The end result is always the same though. A stillbirth is the birth of a baby who has died.
What causes a still birth?
Many times the cause is never known, and a stillbirth is not likely to occur in a subsequent birth. Sometimes the cause of a stillbirth can be traced to problems with the position of the umbilical cord. Other causes can be traced to defects in the baby, especially chromosomal defects. High blood pressure in the mother is also a risk factor.
During the period 1995-1999, Sudden Infant Deaths (SID), rate was:-
- 0.45 per 1,000 live births.
- More prevalent amongst boys than girls. 88% of all SIDs occurred in the postnatal period (i.e. death at 28 days and over).
Possible causes of stillbirth
Science and medicine cannot always explain why some babies arrive earlier than others. Nor can they always explain why some babies live and some babies don’t. More than 30% of stillbirths remain unexplained due to a lack of /inconclusive research.
Allah (glorified and exalted be He) knows best why certain things happen and we have to accept that there is always a higher purpose and reason behind our losses. A mother who finds herself in such a tragic situation must rely on her faith in Allah (glorified and exalted be He): that whatever happens was for the best.
Possible causes and conditions associated with stillbirth include:
- bleeding (haemorrhage): before or during labour
- problems with the placenta (afterbirth): which can separate from the womb before the baby is born (placental abruption), or the placenta can fail to provide the baby with enough oxygen and nutrients which means that the baby does not grow properly (intra-uterine growth restriction is associated with one-third of all stillbirths)
- a problem with the umbilical cord: which attaches the placenta to your baby’s tummy button; it can slip down through the entrance of the womb before the baby is born (known as cord prolapse and it occurs in about 1 in 200 births), or it can wrap around the baby’s neck
- pre-eclampsia: a condition that can cause high blood pressure in the mother; mild pre-eclampsia can affect up to 10% of first time pregnancies and more severe pre-eclampsia can affect 1-2% of pregnancies
- a genetic physical defect in the baby
- a liver disorder in the mother called obstetric cholestasis which occurs in 1 in 200 pregnancies; see the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) website for more information about obstetric cholestasis
- diabetes in the mother
- infection in the mother that also affects the baby
Whilst premature labour is not the prerequisite for a child to be stillborn, it is something that needs to be medically tended to, as soon as possible.
If you experience the following below, you need to call your midwife, doctor, or the obstetrics ward at your local hospital immediately:
- You experience labour contractions before 37 weeks
- Your water breaks
About 7% of stillbirths are caused by an infection. The infection can either ascend from the vagina into the womb (uterus) or it can be passed from the mother to the baby through the placenta.
Factors that can increase your risk of having a stillborn child:
- having twins or a multiple pregnancy – see risks in multiple pregnancy for more information
- being younger than 20 years of age
- being over 35 years of age
- having diabetes, high blood pressure or a blood-clotting disorder
- being a smoker: see why should I stop smoking if I’m pregnant?
- being obese: having a body mass index (BMI) of over 30
For further information please visit the NHS Website.
The days after
Describing the loss of a child and its aftermath is almost impossible. Both mother and father require support, assistance and sometimes even counselling.
The hospital in which the child passed away should offer medical assistance, advice and should be open to discuss all medical aspects regarding the birth and subsequent death of the child.
After the birth of a stillborn child, the parents should request the hospital to investigate the premature labour, the stillbirth etc in order to ascertain possible causes and steps that can be taken to try and prevent it again.
Some hospitals give free counselling, where the counsellor supports the mother through the death and with any new pregnancy. Also never underestimate the power of prayer and calling to Allah (glorified and exalted be He), to help you through this pregnancy.
A mother shares her story
My name is Laila Mahmood Siddiqui. I was 31 years old when I gave birth to my second daughter, Medina Ayla Siddiqui. She was born four months prematurely and so passed away 3 days after she entered this world.
Medina’s death was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to cope with in my life and there were moments when I could not seem to accept the finality and truth of her death. I desperately needed help and I found that help from a very knowledgeable and kind lady who volunteered her services at the hospital to help people like me and my husband.
She comforted my husband and I by talking about the blessings and benefits that came with Medina and her death. She also prayed at her bedside and advised us which prayers to recite over Medina.
I know without a doubt that had it not been for this kind woman and the support I received from my family, I would not have dealt well with my daughter’s death. Some parents might not have the support they need to help them through this very difficult time and not everyone will be fortunate enough to receive the help I was given by volunteers at the hospital. I therefore hope this information on premature births will bring them some comfort and guidance.