What is the likelihood of a stillbirth recurring?
Unlike miscarriage, stillbirth is fortunately a rare occurrence. A recurrence - although possible in theory - is exceedingly rare.
However, it is the duty of the attending obstetrician to counsel each affected woman on the basis of the evidence relevant to her particular case. If the cause of death was not established, then all the doctor can offer is reassurance on the basis of statistics.
Statistics undoubtedly show that recurrence will be extremely unlikely. Nonetheless, the subsequent pregnancy will be classified as "high risk" and antenatal care will be intensive.
If the cause of stillbirth is identified, what then?
The advice is simpler then, because it will be based on what is known about the specific cause of death.
If it was a one-off freak occurrence, then reassurance will be given on this basis.
If it is a residual problem such as anti-phospholipid syndrome (APS), then the mother will be made aware of the steps to be taken next time round, to maximize the chances of a successful outcome.
If it is a treatable condition (such as syphilis), then treatment will be given.
How soon should a woman try to conceive, following a stillbirth?
For the vast majority of cases, the advice is to try whenever and as soon as she feels psychologically and emotionally ready. Physically, there is usually no contraindication for another pregnancy.
The rare exceptions are in situations where a serious maternal condition such as chronic renal failure led to the stillbirth. The advice then may be to defer until the condition has been stabilized, or she may be advised to abandon the idea altogether. Such cases are the exception rather than the rule.
In the UK, bereaved parents can get support from SANDS, a charity dedicated to this. Their helpline 020 7436 5881 is open from 9.30am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday.
A confidential email address is also available: firstname.lastname@example.org
There are sister websites for New Zealand and Australia
Below are some of the other international support organisations’ links.
This list is not exhaustive.
Last update: October 09, 2012