Stillbirth in first pregnancy raises risk in second
Women who suffered a stillbirth during their first pregnancy are more likely than other women to lose their second pregnancy as well.
Stillbirth refers to fetal deaths that occur after the 20th week of pregnancy. Among the most common causes are birth defects, poor fetal growth and problems with the placenta - such as placental abruption, where the placenta peels away from the wall of the uterus, leading to heavy bleeding. To examine the risk of recurrence of stillbirth in a second pregnancy, researchers followed all women who delivered their first and second pregnancies in Scotland between 1981 and 2005 (nearly 309,000 women). Of those women, 2,677 had a stillbirth during their first pregnancy.
It was found that those who had a stillbirth in their first pregnancy were twice as likely to suffer a stillbirth with the second. The absolute risk, however, was still very small. Among women with a previous stillbirth, 2 percent had another with the second pregnancy. That compared with 0.4 percent among women who had a previous live birth with their first pregnancy.
Certain health conditions in the mother, like diabetes and pregnancy-related high blood pressure (also called pre-eclampsia) may also raise the risk of stillbirth. Some of those causes, including placental abruption and pre-eclampsia, tend to recur - that is, women who had the complications in their first pregnancy have a higher-than-average risk of developing them in subsequent pregnancies. The recurrence of predisposing conditions helps explain why women with a history of stillbirth have a heightened risk during a subsequent pregnancy.
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