It is important to distinguish between a stillbirth and other words that describe the unintentional end of a pregnancy. A pregnancy that ends before the twentieth week is called a miscarriage rather than a stillbirth, even though the death of the fetus is a common cause of mis-carriage. After the twentieth week, the unintended end of a pregnancy is called a stillbirth if the infant is dead at birth and premature delivery if it is born alive.
Factors that increase a mother's risk of stillbirth include: age over 35, malnutrition, inadequate prenatal care, smoking, and alcohol or drug abuse.
A number of different disorders can cause stillbirth. They include:
Postmaturity. Postmaturity is a condition in which the pregnancy has lasted 41 weeks or longer.
Unknown causes. These account for about one third of stillbirths.
In most cases the only symptom of stillbirth is that the mother notices that the baby has stopped moving. In some cases, the first sign of fetal death is premature labor. Premature labor is marked by a rush of fluid from the vagina, caused by the tearing of the membrane around the baby; and by abdominal cramps or contractions.
Carol A. Turkington, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,