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My friend just delivered a stillborn baby. What are her options now as far as having another one? How long will she be kept in the hospital and what will happen with the baby?

A stillbirth is a sad and difficult time for all parties involved. In the United States, the rate of stillbirths are estimated to be about 6-7 per 1000 deliveries. The cause for stillbirth is unknown in about 40-60% of cases but placental pathology is suspected to be the most common cause.

The most important work-up to determine the cause of stillbirth is an autopsy if it is offered and elected by the parents. However, fetal karyotype studies should be considered in all cases to determine if a genetic disorder contributed to the stillbirth. In addition, there are a number of maternal tests recommended to determine if the stillbirth was secondary to a maternal medical condition. Women who have had prior c-sections are more likely to have birthing complications because of the increase potential for scarring in the uterus.

Most hospitals offer patients information packets that include referrals for grief counseling, support groups, etc. Barring any medical condition requiring hospitalization, discharge from the hospital usually occurs the following day.

Future pregnancies have about a 3-5% chance of stillbirth in women who have prior stillbirths/miscarriages of unknown origin. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends work-up for possible causes of stillbirths especially in those with multiple stillbirths/miscarriages. More frequent fetal surveillance during future pregnancies may be psychologically beneficial to the parents.