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How To Prevent Stillbirth

Table of Contents

How To Prevent Stillbirth

Table of Contents

Stillbirth is when a baby passes away before being born, usually after 24 weeks of pregnancy. In America, approximately 1 in 75 births is a stillbirth. Although we don’t understand all the reasons for stillbirths, it’s not always preventable. However, we do know some factors that can make it more likely, and there are simple steps you can take to lower these risks.

How To Prevent Stillbirth in 11 Potential Tips

1. Don’t Miss Any of Your Prenatal Appointments

Its important that you don’t skip any of your prenatal check-ups. Certain tests and checks must happen at specific stages to catch any issues early. Attending all your appointments ensures your midwife can provide the right guidance as your pregnancy advances.

2. Exercise and a Healthy Diet

During pregnancy, it’s good to replace unhealthy foods with healthier ones and stay active. If you’re carrying extra weight, it can lead to pregnancy complications, so it’s essential to manage your weight. Remember, pregnancy isn’t the time for a strict weight loss plan, but you don’t have to gain extra pounds if you’re already overweight.

Also read: Weekly Pregnancy Meal Plan: The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need

Exercising during pregnancy is one of the important tips of how to prevent stillbirth that can lower your chances of getting gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, or needing a cesarean birth. It also helps you gain weight in a healthy way while you’re expecting. Plus, it makes your body stronger, especially your heart and blood vessels. And after your baby is born, it aids in shedding those extra pounds you gained during pregnancy.

Also read: The Top Best Exercises for Pregnant Women

3. Quit Smoking

If you’re a smoker and you’re pregnant, the best thing to do is quit. It’s beneficial to stop smoking during your pregnancy, but the sooner you quit, the better. The NHS provides a lot of help to pregnant women who want to quit smoking. Your midwife, GP, or pharmacist can give you advice, and there are stop-smoking programs available for you to join.

It’s important to avoid breathing in smoke from other people’s cigarettes, known as passive smoking, because it’s also harmful during pregnancy. Try to stay away from people who are smoking if you can. If your partner or someone else in your home smokes, they can get support from NHS stop smoking services to help them quit.

4. Avoid Alcohol During Pregnancy

Having alcohol when you’re pregnant can make things worse, like losing the baby early, having a baby too soon, or the baby being very small. It can even hurt your baby after they’re born. Drinking during pregnancy can lead to a serious, lifelong problem for your baby called fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). If you’re struggling to quit drinking, don’t hesitate to seek help from your midwife or doctor.

5. Sleep On Your Side

Studies show that if you’re pregnant and sleep on your back after 28 weeks, the risk of stillbirth doubles. This might be because it affects the baby’s blood and oxygen flow. The safest way to sleep is on your side, either left or right. If you happen to wake up on your back, don’t worry, just roll over onto your side to continue sleeping.

Also read: The Best Sleeping Positions During Pregnancy

6. Keep Your Midwife Informed About Any Drug Use

If you’ve ever used street drugs like cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy, or heroin, or any other substances, it’s important to let your midwife know. Sharing this information helps your midwife understand your overall health better and find preventive measures of how to prevent stillbirth. Don’t worry, your information will be kept confidential, and it will only be shared with other experts if your midwife believes it’s necessary for your and your baby’s safety.

7. Take Your Vaccines

It’s important to get the flu shot every year, starting in October. If you’re pregnant, you’re more likely to face flu-related problems like bronchitis or pneumonia, which can affect your baby. Your midwife or doctor will give you the flu vaccine during pregnancy, and it’s completely safe and free. Plus, it helps protect your baby during their early months.

8. Avoid Sick People

Whenever you can, try not to be around people who seem sick, especially if they have symptoms like diarrhea, a high fever, or vomiting. It’s also a good idea to stay away from kids or grown-ups who have diseases like chickenpox, measles, or slapped cheek syndrome, which are usually more common in children. If you’ve been around someone with an infection, talk to your midwife or doctor for guidance and they’ll let you know how to prevent stillbirth effectively.

9. Wash Your Hands

Make sure to practice good hygiene no matter where you are. This means washing your hands to lower the chances of getting sick, especially:

  • Before you handle food
  • After you use the bathroom
  • After you change a diaper if you have kids

10. Prepare And Store Your Food Safely

When you’re pregnant, your body’s hormones change, and this can weaken your immune system. This makes it tougher to fend off sickness and infections. So, it’s important that you take extra care with your food during pregnancy.

Here’s what you should do:

  • Keep raw foods away from foods you’re going to eat without cooking.
  • If you’re handling raw meat, use a different knife and cutting board.
  • And when you’re warming up meals, make sure they’re piping hot inside, especially if they have poultry in them.

These means are some measures of how to prevent stillbirth guidelines that doctors recommend.

11. Avoid Some Foods During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, it’s important to steer clear of certain foods because they can increase your chances of getting sick from infections like listeria and salmonella. To keep yourself and your baby safe, it’s a good idea to learn which foods to avoid during pregnancy. These include raw or undercooked meat, certain types of cheese, and milk that hasn’t been pasteurized.

Call 111 or Contact Your Maternity Unit Immediately If:

1. There are Changes in Your Baby’s Movements

If you notice that your baby’s movements have decreased or changed, it’s important to contact your midwife or maternity unit right away. They will check your baby’s movements and heartbeat. Don’t wait until your next appointment, even if it’s late at night. Using a home monitoring kit (doppler) on your own is not a reliable way to check your baby’s health, even if you hear a heartbeat. Feeling your baby move is a good sign of their well-being.

Also read: 4 Best Baby Movement Monitors In 2023

2. Your are Bleeding from Your Vagina

If you experience bleeding from your vagina during pregnancy, it could signal a problem. Contact your maternity unit for guidance on how to prevent stillbirth in this case. This could be due to your waters breaking or may indicate an infection. It’s essential to get it checked out.

3. There is Unusual Vaginal Discharge

If you have unusual vaginal discharge that is watery, clear, or colored, and it’s not typical for you, get in touch with your maternity unit. This could be a sign of your waters breaking or a potential infection.

4. There is Swelling, Blurred Vision, or Severe Headache

Swelling, severe headache, and blurred vision may be signs of a condition called pre-eclampsia. While it’s usually mild, in some cases, it can be dangerous for both you and your baby. Symptoms of pre-eclampsia include noticeable swelling, especially in the hands, face, or upper body, persistent severe headaches, vision problems like blurriness or spots, and severe pain below your ribs. Seek medical attention if you experience these symptoms.

5. You are Itching, Especially on Hands and Feet

If you’re dealing with itching, especially on your hands and feet (but it could affect other areas too), contact your maternity unit, even if it seems mild. Itching during pregnancy is common, but it might be a sign of a liver disorder known as intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP). If left untreated, ICP can lead to premature labor and increase the risk of stillbirth. It’s essential to address it promptly.

Also read: Itchy Feet During Pregnancy: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatments

An Endnote on How to Prevent Stillbirth

Dear parents, not all stillbirths can be prevented, but there are steps you can take to lower your risk:

  • Quit Smoking: If you smoke, stop during pregnancy.
  • Avoid Alcohol and Drugs: Stay away from alcohol and drugs while pregnant, as they can harm your baby’s development and increase the risk of stillbirth.
  • Attend Antenatal Appointments: Go to all your prenatal checkups. Midwives will keep an eye on your baby’s growth and health.
  • Maintain a Healthy Weight: Make sure you’re at a healthy weight before trying to conceive.
  • Prevent Infections: Take precautions to protect yourself from infections and avoid certain foods that can contribute to stillbirth (learn more about the causes).
  • Report Pain or Bleeding: If you experience abdominal pain or vaginal bleeding, inform your midwife on the same day.
  • Monitor Baby’s Movements: Pay attention to your baby’s movements. If you have any concerns, inform your midwife right away.
  • Mention Itching: Report any unusual itching to your midwife.
  • Sleep on Your Side: Sleep on your side, not on your back, especially in the later stages of pregnancy.

By being mindful of these guidelines, expectant parents can take essential steps towards a safer, healthier pregnancy. It’s a collective effort, involving healthcare professionals, families, and communities alike. While we strive to protect the precious gift of life, remember that knowledge and action are our strongest allies. Through continued research, education, and support, we can work together to further reduce the incidence of stillbirth, offering the promise of brighter tomorrows for families around the world.

How To Prevent Stillbirth FAQs:

1. What causes a baby to be stillborn?

In over 10% of stillbirths, the baby had a genetic or structural birth issue that might have led to the death. Infections are another common cause. In more than 10% of cases, the stillbirth occurred due to either a baby or placental infection or a severe infection in the mother's body.

2. What week is the highest risk of stillbirth?

Once you reach 40 weeks of pregnancy or beyond, the chance of stillbirth goes up. This is especially true for women who are 35 years old or older. Research indicates that their risk is twice as high at 40 weeks compared to 39 weeks, and it increases to more than six times higher at 42 weeks.

3. Who is most at risk for stillbirth?

Risks of stillbirth that moms carry: Having less money. Being older than 35. Smoking cigarettes or marijuana when pregnant or near pregnancy, or breathing in someone else's smoke while pregnant. Using illegal drugs before or while pregnant.

4. Are there signs a baby will be stillborn?

The most common sign of stillbirth is when you no longer feel your baby moving or kicking. Other signs can include cramps, pain, or vaginal bleeding. If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your healthcare provider immediately or head to the emergency room.

5. Can sleeping on your back cause stillbirth?

Research has found a connection between sleeping on your back in the third trimester (after 28 weeks of pregnancy) and an increased risk of stillbirth. Multiple studies have shown this link. To keep you and your baby safe, it's recommended to sleep on your side during this stage of pregnancy.

6. Does the C-section reduce the risk of stillbirth?

Cesarean section may reduce the risk of unexplained or unexpected stillbirth. It could also lower the chances of labor complications like clinical chorioamnionitis, abnormal fetal heart rate, and cord prolapse. Your baby may also benefit from this approach.

7. What is the difference between stillbirth and stillborn?

Doctors can identify stillbirth by using an ultrasound to check if the baby's heart is no longer beating. After the baby is born, if there are no signs of life like breathing, a heartbeat, or movements, it's confirmed as a stillbirth.

8. Can sleeping too much cause stillbirth?

A study is looking into how a pregnant mother's sleep patterns might affect her baby's health. Sleeping for more than nine hours a night during pregnancy could be linked to a higher risk of late stillbirth.

9. What sleeping position can cause stillbirth?

Sleeping on your back (supine) during pregnancy might have a connection to stillbirth. This position could squeeze the veins and reduce blood flow to the uterus, potentially leading to stillbirth.

On behalf of the editorial team at Parenthoodbliss, we follow strict reporting guidelines and only use credible sources, along with peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and highly respected health organizations. To learn about how we maintain content accurate and up-to-date by reading our medical review and editorial policy.

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