A stillbirth occurs in about 1% of all births in the UK, US, and Australia. This means that every year, the UK records 3500 stillbirths, the US records 24000, and Australia records 4,400 cases. This begs the question; what can be done to reduce the risk of stillbirth.
What is a stillbirth?
Stillbirth is the terminology used when a baby dies during or before birth or after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
In California, one in every 114 pregnancies that were up to 20 weeks would end with a stillborn baby.
There are several issues that could increase your risk of stillbirth during pregnancy, these are:
- High blood pressure
- Being overweight or obese
- Previously having had a stillbirth
- Being over 35 years of age
- Being over 41 weeks pregnant
You cannot always stop stillbirth. However, there are certain things you could do to reduce the risk of stillbirth. These are:
- Pay attention to your baby’s movement
- Side-sleep during your last trimester
- Get help to quit smoking
- Eat well and exercise regularly
1. Pay attention to your baby’s movement
It is essential to always know your child’s special movements during pregnancy. A slight change in your baby’s pattern of movement could be a sign of illness in your baby.
If you notice any strong movement like kicking, stretching, or hiccupping following your baby’s unique pattern, it means your baby is probably safe and healthy.
However, most women start feeling their baby move when they are 16-25 weeks pregnant. In case you are 25 weeks pregnant or more and you have not felt your child move, call a doctor or your midwife at once.
Also, it is important to note that movements in babies typically get more frequent and stronger as they mature. Nevertheless, from about 25 weeks, your baby’s movement pattern would typically stay the same until he/she is born.
2. Side-sleep during your last trimester
The sleeping position of pregnant women has recently emerged as a vital risk factor for most stillbirths. Pregnant women who report sleeping on their back after 28 weeks of being pregnant have an almost three-fold stillbirth risk.
Therefore, doctors recommend that pregnant women adopt the side-sleeping position after 28 weeks of pregnancy.
3. Get help to quit smoking
Smoking during pregnancy is one of the major causes of stillbirth. In California, about 1 in 15 pregnant women smoke.
Smoking in pregnancy can increase your risk of stillbirth or miscarriage, low birth weight, premature birth, and breathing problems.
In case you are a smoker, it is best to stop smoking during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor or midwife about quitting.
4. Eat well and exercise regularly
Healthy eating during pregnancy is essential for baby’s development and growth, as well as your own health and wellbeing.
Exercising regularly also assists in keeping you and your baby healthy. But, it is best to always check with your midwife or doctor about what physical activity is good for you.
Whenever you notice that your baby’s movement has reduced, ensure you call your midwife or maternity unit. Do not delay till the next day or try to use a home monitoring kit to check your baby yourself. This could result in stillbirth if you wait for too long before reaching your doctor.